The Top Ten stars that left Arsenal on bad terms

It’s most likely Ozil has played his last game for Arsenal. If he insists on staying till his contract expires, he could pass the year since he last kicked a ball. Whatever your opinion it’s quite an unflattering way for a talent who contributed 4 FA Cups to depart.


Which prompted me to write one of my top 10 lists.

Who else left the Gunners on not the best terms, where one or both parties didn’t handle themselves with class?


I’m going off the Prem era but older gooners feel free to share any stories you can think of in the comments.



Richard Wright

Okay not saying he was an Arsenal legend, but this story always baffles me.

In 2001, Wright was viewed as a future England keeper. He moved to Highbury on the understanding that David Seaman would be retiring in the next couple of years so be patient and just wait. Mr Wenger promised in the meantime he could be our ‘cup keeper’.

Injuries meant he in fact also played 12 times in the Premiership, qualifying for a title medal. He ended up playing 22 games, not a bad total for a second-choice goalie. Even though he made errors he had contributed to our Double.

The turning point was the FA Cup Final where Wright (who had played every round) was dropped for the Final. Wright viewed this as a direct break of a promise something he wasn’t shy repeating over the years.

Wenger has always maintained Seamen was at an age where Wright’s game time would only have increased.


Paul Merson

When he left in 1998 it seemed as simple as Middlesbrough being prepared to double his wages. Yet there have been subsequent comments over the years which suggest his departure may have been not pleasant.

One theory is the player who has been open about his battle with addictions wasn’t comfortable with the strict dietary and training methods being introduced. It’s been suggested he found his new club had a strong drinking and gambling culture, and watching ex-teammates at Highbury have success without him made him bitter. Essentially if he stayed (for less money) he would have won a Double.

Asked about several comments made by the pundit, Arsene Wenger seemed to imply he tried his best, but the talent wasn’t there. That’s led to Merson feeling the need to point out how Arsenal begged him not to leave.



I didn’t know if I should include this as in the end Arsenal were probably happy with the profit, they made. What Arsene Wenger has never been impressed by was how the teenager handled negotiations. Or more precisely, his brothers.

Fans and even teammates had already got the impression the youngster wasn’t exactly happy in London, hence the nick name ‘ Le Sulk.’

Yet when he was being advised Real Madrid wanted him, he showed zero respect to the club who had given him an opportunity. Anelka essentially went AWOL, his siblings taking him to a hotel where they could control negotiations.

This was years before mobiles and social media meaning they would choose when it was suitable for them for their ‘client ‘ to be contactable. In other words they gave an open line to Madrid but not Arsenal, even though he was our player.


Van Persie

So we are all used to Arsenal allowing a player to get to the final 12 months of their contract. The club have even been prepared to force a player to stay, rather having him leave for free, then sell to a rival for a reduced fee.

That’s why Van Persie went into business for himself by making a statement stressing loud and clear he wanted to go. While it’s hard years later to argue with the content of the letter, it did seem disrespectful to an employer of 9 years. He was essentially giving details of a confidential chat and letting the public know we had zero ambition.

This remember was our captain.

The irony being the striker years later would ring Arsene Wenger enquiring about a return.



Had spent 9 years with us, in which time we won three FA Cups, enough to provide any player with a decent legacy.

For the last few years though the defender has struggled with an Achilles injury which was making it hard for him to play twice a week. Even before the injury got so bad, he missed 9 months of action.

Our captain accepted he couldn’t handle the physical nature of the English game anymore, so agreed in the short term for his game time to be managed before being allowed to return to France on a free in 2019.

The issue was, both agreements were with Arsene Wenger and the message wasn’t passed on or now ignored.

Due to injuries to others, our ex skipper felt Unai Emery overplayed him then the club broke their promise of making him a free agent.

His agent had obviously told French clubs they wouldn’t have to pay a fee, so there was a standoff between all parties when Arsenal started quoting numbers. Feeling lied to, the defender felt his only way to force a move was to refuse to go on our preseason tour, forcing the price down.

The little credit he had left with gooners he nearly ruined by his unveiling video at Bordeaux.

He has since tried to clarify his side of the story.


Jack Wilshere

For years whispers were developing about this young teenager Arsenal had in their academy called Jack Wilshere.

I was at the Emirates when the then 16-year-old scored his first senior goal.

Man of the match displays against Barcelona led to praise from the likes of Xavi and Iniesta.

He was viewed as a future captain for both club and country, England rarely produced technical players like him.

It seemed inconceivable that the Gunners would choose to run down his contract and not offer him a new one.

In the summer of 2018, the midfielder felt he had a promise with his employers, he would be offered a fresh deal if he could prove his fitness after years of injuries. He was even willing to accept a pay as you play agreement with incentives. That though was the arrangement when Arsene Wenger was in charge.

One of Unai Emery’s first tasks was to inform the player he didn’t fit into his plans. It would be one of the few things the Spaniard was proven correct over as West Ham would release super Jack for the same reason.

His heart is willing, his body is not.



To this day claims to ‘hate’ Arsenal and calls Arsene Wenger a ‘fake’ for publicly implying the player was motivated by money and that’s why he moved to Man City. The striker maintains when informed of the transfer he in fact wanted to stay, but it was made clear to him he would be frozen out if he didn’t agree to the move.

He claims he was told by his manager, ‘there is no fight organised, we are not going to organise a fight for you.’

So instead of the idea that he was one of the first Gunners to be seduced by the wages on offer at the Etihad, which has long been the perception, the reality could be it was another example of us having to sell an asset every summer to pay off the stadium debt.

It should be stressed the club have never confirmed this story, and even if true, it’s still not justification to disrespect the club which made you a household name.



This couldn’t be helped but it hurt Pires’ pride to such an extent he went a couple of years after not speaking to Mr Wenger.

The Champions League Final in your own country, in front of your friends and family would be the biggest game of anyone’s career. Pires though also knew it was his last game for Arsenal.

Early on Jens Lehman was famously sent off against Barcelona leaving our manager no choice but to sacrifice an attacking player to bring on a keeper.

Pires has never agreed with the decision as he saw it as a lack of faith in his ability but the two eventually kissed and made up with the midfielder invited back to North London as a coach.


Ian Wright

One of the most emotional chapters in Ian Wright ‘s autobiography was a meeting he had with David Dein and Arsene Wenger in the summer of 1998. Wright was informed it was unlikely he be getting much game time now due to the emergence of Anelka. He was ushered into the next room where the owners of West Ham were waiting with a contract.

In hindsight Wright suggests it was arranged in this fashion as Dein knew, given time to think about things, the striker would have fought for his future at Highbury. Wright says as soon as he got outside (now a Hammer) he broke down in tears, realising it was the end of a special relationship.


George Graham

Arsenal has become a good cup side but due to (in my opinion) a drinking culture at the club had lost consistency in the League. That’s not though why George Graham was sacked though.

The manager was being investigated for taking an illegal payment from an agent. He was still shocked by the sacking as he had been transparent with his employers throughout the investigation. The FA eventually banned him from football for two years.


Be Kind In the comments


Dan Smith


  1. Neither David Rocastle or Michael Thomas were happy at being sold by GG to Leeds & Liverpool. The story is that Rocky cried when Graham informed him.
    Frank Stapleton (from Terry Neill’s London Irish) was accused by fans of “taking the money’ when moving to Man U, but I suppose you could say that about most transfers.

  2. Wrighty said he believed once he stopped playing for us, he actually stopped playing. Broke my heart the day he left….

    1. Thinking about it, I don’t think Wrighty left on bad terms. Arsene told him he’d love him to stay, but wouldn’t play as much as he would’ve liked. Dein was welling up, as was Wrighty! Look at him today – he’s one of us and always will be. The club will always have a place in his heart, just like he’ll always have a place in mine!

      With Wilshere, I read this morning he’ll call Arsene for advice before deciding on a new club… it was sad him leaving, but inevitable…

      1. Yeah Sue, and I don’t think Jack left on bad terms either, just said it was the best move to resuscitate his career (or something like that). I’m surprised he’s not back at Colney keeping fit.

  3. Only 4 FA cups? Minor cups. So for all his petulance he couldn’t deliver a title. Saka delivered FA cup recently so no big deal.

    Look Ozil is not going anywhere but sit in London till his contract ends. He’s no where to go because footballistically he’s retired.

  4. All the gentlemen named above were hardcore footballers with the passion to play and desire to win.Icons for any club, but were let down by the “greatest manager” except the legendary GG. They performed to their best ability to the last day and never grabbed a penny by faking injuries, deciding when/where /how to avoid playing, no PR stunts/garbage talk, nothing. Kos failed to travel for some friendlies which can be accepted. But then we are talking of stars who played every season unlike some fake fluke one season wonder who never was a star ,maybe a firefly whose spark illuminated in the dungeon of the manager then to hike his wages.

  5. Interesting to see YOUR take on those who left Dan. I am much surprised at a number of your ten who left. My list would be very different from yours and would never include BOTH Wrights, nor Pires, nor Wilshere.

    I would CERTAINLY have included COLE and can scarcely believe you missed HIM out. Astonishing! Also Nasri, surprising to say the least.
    TBH, I thought you were stretching a point to make up your actual ten and I dislike lists that conveniently finish in round numbers, such as ten , fifty, a hundred, etc.

    I want truth and the truth is surely not going to finish with a round number in ANY lists, except on occasions and then by coincidence only.

    I could go back decades further but don’t wish to bore the majority on here who will never have heard of many of my names. Though it must be said that when wages were more normal way back then, money was not then the evil and divisive thing that separated, ultimately, club from player. Not to the same degree at least and mainly not at all.

    Through football history there have always been players who just do not get on with certain managers (and vice versa), irresepective of money and this is true at all clubs. The trouble with lists, esp of modern times, is that they do not bring real perspective and it becomes little more than a take your pick parlour game.

    As for not handling themselves ” with class” that would mean simply thousands of players and almost all clubs at times, even most of the time in modern football. I could mention those players who HAD class and I would start with just two, to get the ball rolling. Bob Wilson and George)Geordie) Armstrong.

    You would do well to find ANY to match those giants of REAL class. Tellingly , both go back to the 1960/70s. Quelle surprise! I would add Arsene Wenger to that list and Bobby Robson, if we are speaking of managers, of ANY clubs, too.

    1. Completely forgot Cole Jon. I was at his first match when he returned with Chelsea. The crowd really went after him didn’t they?

    2. Hey , I think I havn’t done a good job of explaining what I want my list to be about
      It’s not who left that we don’t like
      It’s who left who maybe the club could have dealt with more class on way out
      Eg ,Nasri left because he simply wanted more money whereas an Ian Wright, maybe Arsenal could have acted with more class

      1. Dan your own words were “ONE or BOTH parties”. On that basis and using your own criteria, my mention of Nasri was spot on. And I NOTICE YOU DUCKED MY COLE COMMENT!!!

        I simply disagree on Ian Wright, as to the club acting badly. We had Anelka as a top player and Wright was ageing and it was purely a footballing decision, done in the correct way for the club, which should ALWAYS come first. No doubt Wright was disappointed but the club acted correctly for the team.

        You cannot please every player all the time and so many fans who appreciate one current player above the club itself SHOULD learn that . Many of these OZIL worshippers are too far gone in lack of intellect to ever learn that truth, sadly for them personally. He will certainly top that list, once he has finally gone.

  6. Another recent outlier worth a mention (and who’s currently plugging a book) is one of my favourites Niklas Bendtner. Always a good story with big Nik.

  7. The Last sentence on what was said about Adebayor sounds ridiculous if the story from Adebayor is to be believed. If your club forces you out, then comes and lies that you were motivated by money when you never actually wanted to leave. Such a club doesn’t deserve his respect regardless of how much they made/didn’t make him and he has every right to say what he did about the club and wenger and that is if and only if his version of the story is true.
    If the club had not insulted his intelligence by coming out to say he was only motivated by money and he replied the way he did. Then, that shows no class on his part. My point is, if and only if his story is perceived to be true like you said in the last sentence, then there’s no gauging what is justification enough to disrespect the club.

    Which brings the point home to a certain Ozil who has come out many times to criticise the club despite the club not saying anything about him like wenger did about Adebayor. Is Ozil’s disrespect justifiable then Dan? And if you’re wondering how he disrespected the club, take a look at the interview with ornstein, his constant social media escapades etc.

    And like Jon said, I expected to see Nasri, Ashley Cole(I mean we did nickname him cashley Cole) and maybe sanchez, those should be more in the top ten before you can mention players like wilshere. Wilshere, Wright, and Pires leaving didn’t lead to bad blood with the fans. The rest did.

    1. It’s not about who left with bad blood
      That list would be obvious
      I want to form a list on maybe where Arsenal let the player down or a lack of professionalism was going on
      As for your question on Ozil what’s he said so bad about the club
      He has a right to reply
      Arsenal leaked out he refused a salary reduction so he has a right to clarify that if he feels not true
      Arsenal told players staff wouldn’t be sacked
      Arsenal lied , that’s not Ozil’s fault
      He has a right to question Arsenal for supporting Black Lives matter when they released a statement saying they can’t support his chance on how China is treating Muslims because they don’t do politics
      He has a right to question why he was okay to play 10 games ( we lost once ) but suddenly can’t make the bench ?
      I don’t see that as disrespecting anyone

      1. DAN Your OWN words, “where one or both parties did not handle themselves with class”! You are trying to move the goalposts of your original article by ruling out “bad blood.”

        It may just be my penchant for cutting to the chase, but surely when “one or both parties did not handle themselves with class”, then “bad blood” on one side or even both is inevitable. Surely?

        I dislike people moving goalposts and trying to rewrite what we can all see was what YOU actually said when laying down YOUR rules in your article. CARE TO COMMENT PLEASE?

          1. Sincere thanks for that DAN! We all make mistakes and I make plenty, please believe me. I AM an irritating pedant where words are concerned. The reason being that I have always had a compulsion for accuracy – it IS actually a compulsion too, which can be very inconvenient to me personally – in life.

            So I have no problem at all with ANY human making a simple mistake. It is when they try to wriggle out of it, IN TYPICAL POLITICIAN STYLE, and not admit it, sometimes not even to themselves, that I get troubled. It takes real character to admit it on a public site, so sincere applause for that Dan.

            I RETAIN THE GREATEST OF RESPECT FOR YOUR OBVIOUS WRITING SKILLS and this is quite irrespective of whether or not I agree or disagree with your own views. Mostly I do it seems but not on everything.

      2. And you know that the club leaked the pay cut information exactly how? Do you work for Arsenal football club. As Ozil himself come to state that the information was leaked by the club? It’s okay for you to side with Ozil when it suits your agenda despite the fact that what he has been doing is nothing different from what Adebayor did(presumably if the two players are right about how they’ve been treated by the club) and I say this because unless you’re privy to some information the rest of us do not know, you can’t keep saying as factual what you assume to be going on based off of one person’s continued rant.
        Jon summed you up below were he said you shift the goal post. You do that alot Dan and I’m finding it really hard not to see you write an article without serious bias. You just said Adebayor shouldn’t have done what he did but it’s okay if it’s Ozil doing it. That’s a lopsided view and a double standard at best. But great article idea anyway

        1. Sorry if your discussing Ozil ( which your choosing to do) it’s 100 percent bias as it’s my opinion ?
          I never in this article mention the pay reduction.
          I never hid my opinion that he’s being treated poorly but that’s what it is my opinion
          It’s you trying to reinforce your opinion on me
          Reports claim Arsenal.sources
          Of course I cannot 100 percent say that’s true but it’s kind of obvious that only someone at Arsenal.would have this information
          I don’t think it came from.stoke city ?
          But going by your logic , if people say Ozil isn’t trying in training , is happy to sit at home , that equally can’t be proven
          But to warn you I write opinion.pieces so by definition of the word opinion , it’s going to be bias lol

          1. Is Arteta still a Kroenke flunky? You think so which makes me inclined to disregard a proportion of your articles
            An opinion piece is just that but when it is constantly presented as a truth rather than your view it becomes in the mind of a reader a truth when it clearly is not

            1. Sue I don’t mind you disagreeing with my articles
              That’s healthy , I encourage debate
              It be boring if we all wrote Arsenal are the best , etc
              Let me stress this to you as I thought it was obvious
              What I write is my opinion
              It’s not nor have I ever claimed it to be the truth
              I like to read Oliver Holt and Andy Dunn weekly articles but I’m in zero doubt it’s not the truth but their opinion
              So just that we have that clear, my articles are my opinions
              I have zero inside knowledge of the truth lol
              If your asking for my viewpoint , yes Arteta has dropped ozil for non footballing reason s
              I wouldn’t use word flunky
              Let’s just say every manager picks their battles

  8. Now looking back I have more respect for those mercenaries than mercenary Ozil. At least those mercenaries were high performers and wanted to better themselves. Went for more money and to challenge themselves at better clubs.

    On the other hand Ozil is a stagnant and comfort personality. He just stayed for the money and comfort.

    What is he still doing at Arsenal if he still cares about his career? It has been made clear to him since 2018 that he needs to pull up his socks in training and on the pitch or he should find another club. But the comfort of just not working hard but be paid was too much for him to let go. He knew about that free £8 million bonus, so he had to stick it out until 2020 / September when it would be activated. Did not care about anything apart from getting to 2020 when that juicy bonus would be paid.

    If Ozil was putting in the performances then not a single one of us his critics would even care about how much he is getting paid.

    This is what has frustrated me about Ozil since 2014/15. Does so little, the bare minimum. He mostly disappears for 80 minutes per game, comes up with good pass and that is enough for his fans to make YouTube clips out of it and circulate/ loop it all over the net. “Ozil was amazing, look at that pass”.


  9. Dan, it is interesting you note that Arsene Wenger claimed that “the talent wasn’t there” with regard to Paul Merson. Yet despite recovering from his addictions, in 1997 on joining Middlesbrough he helped them gain promotion to the Premier League and was nicknamed by fans “The Magic Man”. He played in the 1998 Football League Cup Final with Boro and earned selection in the England squad for the 1998 World Cup in France.
    After joining Aston Villa in 1998 Merson went on to become club captain and played for them in the 2000 FA Cup final. With Villa in February 2000 he won Premier League Player of the Month.
    This doesn’t appear to be the form of a player, who had lost his talent?
    In 2008 in an official Arsenal fan poll, Paul Merson was ranked the 26th greatest player for the Club.
    He might not be much of a pundit, but he was a great player, in my opinion.

    1. Wenger said it , not me lol
      I guess though the counter to that would be while he’s finishing 2nd in ( the then ) division one we are winning the Double

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