It seems that since moving to our shiny new stadium, Arsenal have gained a bit of a reputation for being a feeder club.
It started off with Barcelona, taking the likes of Henry, Hleb, Fabregas, Song and most recently Vermaelen, but somewhere along the way Manchester City decided to get in on the act. Since 2006 we have seen a total of five Arsenal men made the move Oop north (down t’pit) with no return travellers, as well as a rather public courtship of the Dutch skunk.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at how those who have transferred directly from Arsenal to Manchester City over the last eight-and-a-half years have fared, reviewing their motives for moving and their relative success. (Or in some cases, lack thereof!)
Emmanuel Adebayor – Forward – Transferred for £25m in July 2009
Adebayor signed for Arsenal for £7m from Monaco in January 2006, and although it was clear he was rough around the edges, he had a decent impact in his first season, scoring four goals in 13 appearances. Renowned throughout his career for his performances in the first few months of a contract (and the last few months before the next one!), he then had a less successful second season including getting himself sent off in the League Cup final.
Never one to keep his nose clean for too long, Adebayor went on to attack his own teammate, Nicklas Bendtner, late on in a game against Tottnumb the following season, which for many Gunners became a sign of things to come.
Somewhere in between his aggressive lapses Adebayor found time for a spectacular season, scoring 24 goals in 36 games and earning himself a long-term contract in the process. However, he clearly thrives on conflict, and was sent off again in December 2008 for an altercation with Albeloa of Liverpool.
It’s easy to look at Adebayor and say it was all about the money, and there’s probably some truth in that, but clearly Arsene Wenger had also had enough and decided the Togolese was surplus to requirements. So despite the shiny new contract, Adebayor was packed off to Manchester City for the princely sum of £25m.
As with Arsenal before and Tottnumb afterwards, Adebayor started with a bang at City, scoring in all of his first four games for the club, two of which secured 1-0 victories for his team. The fourth of those games happened to be against his former club, and Adebayor reverted to type by deliberately kicking the Dutch skunk in the face – he was subsequently banned for there matches. Unsurprisingly though, the ban is a mere footnote in the story of that game, as many will remember the furore Adebayor caused by his ill-advised goal celebration.
In a culture where the vogue is to refuse to celebrate against former teams, Adebayor bucked the trend by running the full length of the pitch to knee slide in from of the Arsenal fans. Whether or not you agree with whether he should have celebrated, his chosen provocative style of celebration was a little foolish and cemented his place as a comedy villain for Arsenal fans. If you are going to be so provocative, you better make darned sure you are good enough. Adebayor is not.
How hilarious then, that despite City winning their first few major trophies in his time at the club, Adebayor was still trophyless when he left the Etihad, having been on loan at Real Madrid when City won the FA Cup in 2010-11 and again on loan at Tottnumb when they won the League in 2011-12. (They being Man City, not Tottnumb – ‘61, never again.)
Ultimately, Adebayor never regained his early form, and was shipped off first to Real Madrid where he made just 14 appearances, and later to Tottnumb which just about shows the level of his decline – from North London’s premier outfit to the riffraff up the Seven Sisters Road. It says a lot when even Mancini (a manager so keen on a project that he took on Mario Balotelli) gives up on a player, but Adebayor has shown time and again his inability to both motivate and control himself consistently, and he is now at a club where even Goaldado (hahahahaha) gets selected ahead of him oftentimes.
How are the mighty fallen?
A player unable to perform with the discipline required at the top level, Adebayor didn’t make a lasting impact at either club, and as a result now plies his trade (when he even gets picked) for a small time club where even their success-starved fans believe he isn’t good enough.
A particular highlight was his needless red card at the Emirates in the second 5-2, which just about summed him up.
Kolo Toure – Defender – Transferred for £16m in July 2009
If ever there was something that would give you a free pass to move to another domestic club, then being one of the Invincibles is as close as you can get.
Kolo signed for Arsenal for peanuts in 2002 as a jack of all trades, featuring across the backline and more often in defensive midfield. However, it was in his second full season at the club that Toure started to stand out in a consistent role at centre back alongside Sol Campbell, winning the support of the Arsenal fan base in the process. The rest, as they say, is history.
Two years later, Kolo was part of the Arsenal backline that went ten games without conceding en route to the Champions League final, and even scored the only goal of the two-legged semi-final in the last ever European game at Highbury. Pacey, comfortable on the ball and part of a well-drilled defensive unit, Toure committed his best years to the club and was the last man standing from the first XI of the Invincibles.
Along with so many Arsenal fans, he must have wondered: “What if…?”
Few begrudged him a new challenge as the toll of the new stadium affected Arsenal, and amid stories of a bust up with William Gallas, Kolo moved on to pastures new in 2009.
Toure went on to spend four seasons in Manchester, helping the club to its first league title in 44 years and first FA Cup in 42 years.
Initially appointed club captain, he featured heavily in his first two seasons before being suspended for six months for failing a drugs test. This was after he was found to have breached doping regulations by taking his wife’s water tablets, but the length of his ban reflected that the panel found he had not intended to enhance his sporting performance.
Thereafter he was relegated to squad appearances only, and in the summer of 2013 joined Liverpool on a free. It’s telling that perhaps his biggest contribution to the club was that his presence attracted younger brother Yaya to sign from Barcelona a year after him, a move which elevated City to a new level.
A cultured and committed centre back, Toure remains fondly remembered by Arsenal fans and achieved early success at City, but ultimately he was on the wane when he left the Emirates and never quite had the same impact for the Sky Blues.
He is now showing his age at Liverpool, but will go down as an Arsenal great for his role in the record breaking 2003-04 triumph.
Gael Clichy – Defender – Transferred for £7m in July 2011
The case of Gael Clichy is a bit of an odd one.
Joining Arsenal in 2003 aged 17, he played the understudy role to Ca$hley Cole for a number of years, before finally making the left back position his own following the Londoner’s departure to Chel$ki. A bit-part player in the invincible season, he became the youngest ever player to win a Premier League medal, and also played a role in the following season’s FA Cup success. And yet he is remembered at Arsenal in perhaps a not very flattering light, where his style constantly rubbed up against that of the team, leading to a number of individual errors and an overall feeling that he is what Winnie the Pooh would call “a bear of very little brain”.
Clichy suffered a number of injuries throughout his time at Arsenal, and never really lived up to his billing as the long term replacement for Cole.
He always benefited from having an experienced defender alongside him at left centre back and ultimately suffered from Arsenal’s propensity to throw everyone forward with little regard for defensive stability. Certainly this exposed Clichy’s weaknesses defensively, and his inability to do anything meaningful in the way of crosses became something of a running joke. All of this combined meant that when it was announced that he was departing for City, Arsenal fans were more commonly surprised than disappointed. It was hard to see that he would have a place in a team hoping to challenge for titles.
Near the start of his City career, Clichy picked up a red card for taking out Ramires, and that in itself ought really be enough to elevate anyone to hero status. More recently, he seems to have established himself as Pellegrini’s first choice left back ahead of Kolarov, which is perhaps surprising given City’s move towards a more attacking style in the last two seasons. Nonetheless, he has benefited from moving to a side where there is greater midfield cover and a stronger core in central defence than in his last few seasons at Arsenal.
He has enjoyed similar levels of success at City, with an extra league but no FA Cup glory to his name.
One of the few players to have kept his counsel and conducted himself with dignity during his move and while he is unlikely to be remembered in the long term by either club, at least he won’t be remembered for the wrong reasons.
A simple but effective defender, Clichy has perhaps been more suited to Manchester City than he ever was to Arsenal. He never quite hit the dizzy heights initially expected of him, and has ultimately proven himself to be a solid if unspectacular professional.
Samir Nasri – Midfielder – Transferred for £22m in August 2011
Samir Nasri joined Arsenal from Marseille in the summer of 2008 for around £12m. His period at the club coincided with the last few years of the infamous trophy drought, and as with so many players in that spell, his departure was all the more frustrating for the level of progress he made during his time at the club. After a promising first season at the club, Nasri had a stop-start second season following a broken leg at the start, and concluded with his failure to secure a spot in France’s 2010 World Cup squad.
However, in his final season a newly motivated Nasri returned 10 goals in his 30 league appearances and 15 in 46 overall – a ratio to rival the top goalscoring midfielders, and was selected in the PFA’s team of the year. His versatility in any of the three positions behind the foremost striker meant that he got a regular run of games and developed a good understanding with players like Arshavin and Fabregas, as well as being able to take on their mantle when unavailable.
After all that, he then made clear his desire to leave in the same summer as the one in which Fabregas departed – with just a year to run on his contract, he rather had the club over a barrel in that regard.
For some he was derided for ‘selling out’ and behaving like the rats in the old ‘abandoning ship’ analogy, particularly in light of the contract situation. For others, he was praised for continuing to play when it became clear he was going to leave – you’d have thought it was the least to expect given the amount he was paid!
Either way, Nasri didn’t spend enough time at the club to exit peacefully to a rival club, as City had by this time become. Thus no matter the opinion fans held of the way he left, the fact that he left at all means that he joins Adebayor in the category of pantomime villain.
As with Arsenal, Nasri started his career at Man City with a strong first season before having a rather less impressive second season. Under Mancini he was fair game for the seemingly random rotation policy the Italian employed, and unsurprisingly was a little hit and miss as a result. Under Pellegrini last year he underwent something of a rejuvenation, scoring seven goals in 34 league appearances. Seemingly a favourite of the new manager, he has been selected almost whenever available this year, and although he has yet to find the net, it is surely a matter of time once he gets an uninterrupted run of games in the team.
Nasri seems to have more in common with Adebayor than any sane person would desire, and one of these habits is a seeming need to open his mouth unnecessarily. It was a particularly poor touch to question the passion of Arsenal’s fans upon his departure, and then to again goad Arsenal fans when City won the league. Most recently he has come out around how he ended up at Man City, discussing how Alex Ferguson tapped him up in an attempt to get him to move to the other side of Manchester. Sometimes, it’s better to keep our counsel. He probably wants to have a word with his girlfriend, too, after she threw a hissy fit on his behalf when he wasn’t selected for France’s World Cup squad.
In his time at City, Nasri won two Premier Leagues and a couple of minor trophies, so arguably he has had a better time at City. The trouble is, it’s hard to think that Nasri himself was a huge influence in winning those trophies like he could have been had he stayed at Arsenal.
His Arsenal appearances were only 14% off the bench, whereas at City he comes in at 23% of games where he only came on later in the game. It looks like Nasri prefers being a little fish in a bigger pond than a big fish in a smaller pond.
Somehow Nasri always looks like he has a bad smell under his nose, and certainly he’s a player who seems to find happiness hard to come by. He’s played well for both clubs without being spectacular and has still yet to fulfil his potential. At City, despite being surrounded by a wealth of attacking talent, he remains at a ratio of 0.13 goals per game, whereas at Arsenal he contributed half as many again despite being in an arguably inferior team. He still have years ahead of him but much to prove.
Bacary Sagna – Defender – Transferred on a Free in July 2014
Bacary Sagna joined Arsenal from Auxerre in 2007 to rebalance an Arsenal defence which at the time boasted the enigmatic Emmanuel Eboue. A highly athletic and combative player, Sagna bombed up and down his wing throughout his Arsenal career – it’s a shame that some of his early attacking prowess has been forgotten amidst the memories of endless crosses which failed to beat the first man in his latter years at the club. It is easy to forget his two leg breaks which in years gone by would have ended his career, and the fact that he was able to return to such a high level is credit to his dedication.
Also, for a player only 5’9”, he is bloody good in the air!
His commitment to the cause and his high levels of consistency earned him both a place in the Premier League team of the season on two occasions and also a place in the hearts of the Arsenal fan base. Somehow he had a knack of grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck when required and his commitment was a true example.
Few if any Arsenal fans will have forgotten his powerful header against Tottnumb in the first 5-2 game which he got his head to with pretty much nothing else beyond sheer willpower, and his reaction on Arsenal’s triumph in last season’s FA Cup Final showed his true feelings towards the club, despite already knowing that it was likely to be his final hurrah.
So then although many thought he was leaving for one last big paycheck, few begrudged him the move to City when his contract expired – unlike Nasri, he had given the best years of his career to the club through a difficult period in our history, and for that he will receive only respect, both now and whenever he returns to the Emirates.
Dodgy hair, we don’t care, Bacary Sagna!
It’s still early to comment too much on his time at Manchester City, but Sagna must have known when he made the switch that he was likely to spend much of the season playing second fiddle to Pablo Zabaleta. He has not featured much, with just five starts and one sub appearance to his name in the league, but perhaps tellingly he has been trusted more in European games, where his experience is most valuable.
A player in the twilight of his career, Sagna is unlikely to make much of a mark at City, but his professionalism and his passion for the game mean that he commands respect from both clubs. A player who worked hard to earn his last big contract and is now seeing it out.
Let’s hope those seats on the City bench are comfortable.
In summary then, of the five players to make the move, it feels like only Nasri and Clichy have got close to matching their exploits at Arsenal.
Most departed in search of bigger and better things in a period when Arsenal were rather hamstrung from the new stadium, and ultimately we received some sizeable and in some case ludicrous transfer fees in return. (Imagine paying £25m for Adebayor when an extra £7m would get you Alexis Sanchez…)
Ultimately Manchester City needed those early signings, at whatever cost, to get them up and running in the Premier League. The acquisition of a number of well-respected (if slightly past their peak) Arsenal players established them as a credible challenger in English football and gave them a far greater chance of attracting the very best players.
That need came at a time when Arsenal required money to fund the stadium move, and passing on our sloppy seconds to the Sky Blues at inflated prices was as good a way as any of gaining it. Certainly as soon as the stadium burden was relaxed, Arsene Wenger went on record to say that the moves to City would now stop, and then backed it up with his actions over Van Persie.
In my book, it was a good trade-off for both sides.
Certainly it was clear that most were only ever signed for a short term purpose, and that is reflected by the number of games each has played. Of the players who moved, it is only Nasri who racked up his highest number of appearances in a single season for Manchester City rather than Arsenal, and for Adebayor, Toure and Sagna, they all played more games for Arsenal in every single season at the club than they did in any one season at City.
In the interim years, City have remained nervous of Arsenal, with draws common among recent results despite the Gunners’ poor form in the other big games. Now that we’re through our very own period of austerity though, the time is right to kick on and lay down a marker in the same way that City did back in 2010.
And if it happens to mean we stick it to a few confrontational ex-Gunners along the way? So be it – this is war.
I’m delighted to be able to announce that you will be able to read my ramblings every Friday morning from 7.30am going forward. You can also follow me on twitter for slightly more random musings and to join me on my match-day experiences – @nellypop13