David Bentley admits his Arsenal spell was the best of his career and he probably should have stayed longer than he did.

LONDON - JANUARY 24: David Bentley of Arsenal celebrates scoring their fourth goal during the FA Cup Fourth round match between Arsenal and Middlesbrough at Highbury on January 24, 2004 in London. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON: David Bentley of Arsenal celebrates scoring on January 24, 2004. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Speaking to The Athletic this week, David Bentley looked back on his career, including his initial breakthrough to senior football with Arsenal.

The now-retired England international joined the Gunners at the age of 12, departing permanently nine years later at 21. He only made nine senior appearances for Arsenal in that time, which is a big part of why he decided to leave.

It seems he has some regrets over that decision looking back now, though.

“That (Arsenal spell) was the best time ever,” Bentley admitted. “I could and probably should have stayed, maybe. I went to Norwich on loan for a season (2004-05) and when I came back, I couldn’t see a pathway into the first team, so I had to leave.

“I wasn’t getting any reassurances, which was understandable because the best players in the world were in front of me!

“But in the years after I left, the philosophy changed and that team with so many great players in front of me was dismantled. When I left, the young lads came in. So yeah, it was just timing, even though there was a backlash when I left.”

The comments are eerily similar to quotes from Jeremie Aliadiere in 2018. He also talked about forcing a move away from Arsenal because he needed to play, before regretting it later when he realised he left just before the youth revolution at the club.

It’s understandable that Bentley and Aliadiere might have thought the stacked team of legends ahead of them would stick around a lot longer than they did. They were young and impatient and just wanted game time.

It’s only now, with hindsight, that they can see their mistake.