Top Ten Players that went backwards on leaving Arsenal

Samir Nasri is reportedly training with West Ham in a bid to earn a contract once his drugs ban is completed. It’s the kind of deal David Gould/Sullivan have become known for, attempting to sign a talent with name value, ignoring why they are a free agent in the first place.

Just like Patrice Evra last year, the hope is the player will be motivated in the short term to make himself relevant again. It’s strange to think the Frenchman is only 31, meaning the last few years should have been the peak of his powers. Instead he’s missed out on a European Championship in his own country and a World Cup medal. This from a man who in his early twenties Arsenal thought could have cushioned the blow of losing Fabregas, that’s how good he was for us.

He will argue that at Man City he earned more trophies and money then he would have if he had stayed at the Emirates. In the process though his form fell off a cliff. Of all the talent to leave us he would have to top the list for individuals who went backwards. As it’s the international break here is 10 others whose powers waned after leaving North London.

Petit & Overmars
Many Gooners were depressed when we sold this duo to Barcelona for a combined 30 million. The two had been instrumental in us winning the Double. The irony being that it was two serious injuries that allowed Arsene Wenger to bring them to England relatively cheaply, with most of Europe viewing them as gambles. History would tell us we sold at the right time with both men’s bodies collapsing in Spain, Petit in particular having problems. In other words, Arsenal had squeezed the last drop out of the midfielders, selling at the right time. Underachieving at the time, the Catalans were unforgiving and showed little sympathy for either of their new signings. Petit returned to London and it was sad to see him hobble round at Chelsea, a shadow of his former self. Overmars remained at the Nou Camp until 2004 but was always on the fringes due to managerial changes and a knee injury which eventually forced him to retire.

On more than one one occasion Hleb has admitted leaving Arsenal as being ‘ the biggest regret of my life’. It must have been a head vs heart moment when Barcelona wanted him. The heart saying it was too good to turn down, the head knowing you were not going to break into their famous midfield. Just a year after paying 17 million for him, Barca were already willing to loan him out. In more than one instance the Belarus star hinted for Arsenal to come and get him back, but injuries were becoming more common. A loan switch to Birmingham was a chance to prove he could still handle the physicality of the Premiership, but he barely played due to more fitness problems. So long on the side-lines meant no one was willing to pay his wages, forcing Barca to release him. Even as a free agent he sent come and get me pleas to Arsene Wenger. Instead he went to Russia, has played back in his homeland and is currently plying his trade In Turkey.

Francis Jeffers
Famously nick named the ‘Fox in the Box’, Jeffers was brought in to score the type of goals our more flamboyant strikers couldn’t, the scruffy tap ins where the centre forward has the knack of being in the right place at the right time. There’s no disgrace being behind the likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Wiltord or Kanu. Jeffers was 20 at the time with Arsene Wenger signing him for the future. He had earned his reputation with his scoring records for both Everton’s and England’s under age groups. The sign of things to come were evident in his first two seasons at Goodison. A teenager at the time, he never finished a campaign due to ankle injuries and upset Walter Smith in how he tried to force a move.
This is an example of a player who moved outside of his comfort zone too soon. A born Evertonian, he lacked the mentality to shake off injuries at Highbury. He had gone from playing every week to now having to impress in the odd cup tie. It’s clear that not making the grade at a top club affected him in the mind as well as niggling injuries. It’s worth remembering he was only 22 when we cut our losses, more than enough time to rescue his career. Yet a return to his boyhood club, Charlton, Blackburn, Rangers, Ipswich, even stints in Australia never saw him have the goal to game ratio he did as a teenager. Thankfully for his mental health, Everton have always looked after one of their own, letting him train with them when unemployed and now working with their academy.

Richard Wright
When we signed him was viewed as England’s future number 1 keeper. That the current Three Lions goalie was with the club Wright signed for suggests he was originally willing to be patient to make his Arsenal move work. He in fact played 22 times in his one and only season at Highbury, more than contributing to us winning the Double. The fact he asked to leave just a year after signing a five-year contract, originally happy to wait for David Seaman to retire, suggests somewhere he felt promises were broken. When fit, he had been our cup keeper yet was demoted for the FA Cup Final. It’s believed this is the moment he felt proved that Arsene Wenger didn’t trust him. If he had waited one more season, he would have seen Seaman hang up his boots. Instead he went to Everton, so he could start every week. Injuries meant he would end up second fiddle, ironically to another veteran he was predicted to replace in the National team, Nigel Martyn. His international career so many expected when he was a youngster at Ipswich never got better than the two caps he had already earnt. Injuries suffered at Goodison saw him drop down divisions so he could remain first choice in his position. He made an interesting choice in 2012, signing for Man City swapping first team football in League one for the comfort of being third / fourth choice at one of the richest sides in the world. Cynics say City only did this to help meet the quota of UK players you had to have. It’s worth considering he would be on the books at the Etihad for 4 years, not playing once. It’s worked out for him in terms of that’s been enough to become one of Pep’s coaches.

Needs to be put into context as somewhere along the line the striker clearly cared about earning as much money as possible at the expense of trophies (he has one Copa del Rey to his name). He started to garner a reputation as playing well in loan spells to impress new employers, his levels dropping once signed on a permanent basis. It’s not uncommon for African players not to maintain consistency in Europe. Some have had hard backgrounds and are sending money back home to their entire families. What’s surprising is how angry Adebayor seems regarding Arsenal compared to his 6 other ex-clubs. It was with us he displayed his best form. Form that made him win African Footballer of the Year and gave him the platform to earn the millions he has.

I’m one of the few gooners who originally defended the striker when he first broke through the ranks, remembering his goal to game ratio was decent in his first few years. If he had kept his mouth shut, he wouldn’t have invited the mockery that has followed him his entire life, namely calling himself one of the best players in the world. To be fair he has always embraced the teasing and used it to create his own gimmick, especially when he couldn’t score on loan at Sunderland or Juventus. He became so unwanted we couldn’t get him off the wage bill, the Dane ending up with his own song, ‘he only scores cause your ….’. He’s more of a celebrity back in Denmark due to high profile relationships and a partying lifestyle. He may have crossed the line, having been sentenced to 50 days in prison this month. His legacy will be for what he said and did away from the pitch.

A bit harsh as you can argue the striker was never good enough for this level and was only brought as he was out of contract, at a time when we were paying off the stadium debt. He would embody everything that was wrong with the mentality in our squad. When confident, the Moroccan became the first player to score in 6 consecutive Champions League fixtures. When he lost his mojo, he simply never had the personality to find it again. West Ham, Crystal Palace and Cardiff were all short stints where he failed to rebuild his reputation. He hasn’t had a club in two years despite once being highly thought of in France.

David Bentley
Classic example to youngsters that talent alone will only get you so far, you need the dedication to remain a professional sports person. Bentley enjoyed the highs of scoring hat tricks against Man United, being labelled the next David Beckham and scoring against us with a 43-yard volley. Yet he lacked the mentality when things were not going his way. Having lost his way at Spurs the turning point may have been a knee injury while on loan at West Ham. Suddenly he spent six months recovering at a club where he knew he had zero future. A man who had played for England a year previous was now going to Russia to try and kick start his career. In 2014 Bentley retired at the age just 29, citing that he had ‘fallen out of love with football’. In various interviews he has been very honest about the lifestyle of the profession, earning enough money by the age of 30 to never have to work again. He has invested in restaurants and night clubs in Spain and the UK. Everyone should do what makes them happy, you wouldn’t wish anyone’s mental health to suffer, doing something they don’t want to do anymore. Yet how many people would have loved the opportunity he walked away from?

Jermaine Pennant
Spent the summer in the Big Brother House in a bid to prove that his party boy image wasn’t true. A couple of months later was on Jeremy Kyle refusing to take a lie detector test. The saddest part on his stint with reality TV was watching him try to convince housemates how good he was for Liverpool in the Champion’s League Final. A game he lost being the sole game he clings too as representative of his career. That would be a false dawn. One he would have with 14 clubs, taking him from England, Scotland, India and Singapore. His new book is worth a read as the majority of those experiences are overshadowed by a lack of professionalism. One of the selling points to his autobiography is the night before scoring a hat trick for Arsenal, he was knocking back alcohol, breaking numerous curfews. That he admits this with such openness is endearing in some ways, sad in others. Some believe with the talent he had, he could have played for England if he lived his life differently. The man himself says where he came from, he in fact over achieved. You decide ?

Dan Smith


  1. arie82 says:

    Van persie?
    1 season wonder at mutd, playing crap in next season
    Blaming ferguson retired for his crap performance.
    Never replicate his arsenal performance both in barca and chelsea
    At the end, he just become ordinary forgettable player, what a waste of talent

    1. gotanidea says:

      At least Van Persie won the EPL with Man United and Fabregas won La Liga

      Never blamed them for leaving, but I agree with you, such a waste

  2. gotanidea says:

    Great article, I really enjoyed reading it

    I was gutted when Hleb left, because he was so good when playing behind Adebayor, Arsenal’s main striker at that time. Regarding Bendtner, I only remember him for his hernia surgery

    Nasri, despite his current situation, won EPL with Man City. If we can add more players to the list, I would like to add Alex Song, Fabianski, Reyes and Eboue

    1. Sue says:

      I was gutted when Petit left!

  3. Adega Olatunji says:

    What about Alexis Sanchez?

    1. Sue says:

      Haha yes spot on!!!

      Jermaine Pennant sure as hell has gone backwards… I read he was on Jeremy Kyle the other week ?

    2. gotanidea says:

      He would be automatically added to the list if he doesn’t win any major trophy with Man United and gets relegated to Chilean league

  4. colin says:

    Regarding Chamack,

    I know at the end of the seasons we had him we looked back at his numbers and no-one was thrilled with them. 40 games, 8 goals in the premier (67/17 total career with us) is nothing to get thrilled about, but I think he was significantly damaged by our club and how he was handled. He came in and was doing very well as the leading man showing great ability, strength, and inclusion of teammates in play. The moment RVP was fit, he was removed and given odd appearances. While overall I still look back fondly at Wenger and much of what he did, this situation still sticks out to me as a massive mistake. We had an inform striker who if I remember correctly was on pace to hit and break the 20+ goal mark many talk about, yet after only 8-10 games into his career with us he was sat for a man made of glass. think about if you had a new job, were doing great, then immediately sat when an unreliable person appeared who could sometimes do a little more than you could. I personally would’ve been losing my mind wondering what I did wrong, and I think that one situation shattered his psyche for his career, he always seemed to look over his shoulder at every team I happened to watch him play for as if he was curious who was the next person to steal his job.

    Sorry for the novel this is just one situation that still is a sore point for me as I feel he could have been a great player, but filling in well and being shown he had little to no permanence in his position makes it hard to be motivated for him.

  5. jon fox says:

    Interesting article but only for those three playeres out of ten listed who were any real good in thre first place, when with us. Petit, Overmars and to a lesser extent Nasri. Some of the others like IDLE ADEBAYOR and Hleb in small doses has SOME use. The rest were no good and I was glad to see the back of the whole lot except Petit and Overmars, though given their individual situations I thought is correct to release even them. For perspective on this general theme of big names leaving big clubs, it is common for most such players, who are WILLINGLY, (and please note WILLINGLY) released by a big club to regress afterwards. It happens everywhere and we are not different from the norm in this respect. So all in all a worthwhile article that really tells us nothing new. Interesting all the same.

  6. Apollos says:

    What do we ve to say about our eduado da silva

  7. uzo says:

    what about vermelen and song they were so good when they were with us … I felt about when they can’t get even a cup match at barca

  8. Big G says:

    what about Edu who had his best season just before leaving and then breaking his leg.

  9. Khadii says:

    Hleb is currently in Belarus playing for BATE Borisov, not Turkey

    1. Dan says:

      Thought he moved

  10. Dan says:

    No your right he went Turkey then back there

Comments are closed