From Gnabry and Bennacer to Malen & Mkhitaryan – Arsenal’s dismal record of sales in the last five years
For many years during Arsene Wenger’s 20-year plus reign in north London, it used to be said that Arsenal stars never flourished after leaving the club.
Indeed, there were numerous examples during the late 1990s and early noughties of top-class stars failing to maintain their Arsenal performances elsewhere; from Patrick Vieira and Marc Overmars to Emmanuel Petit and Emmanuel Adebayor.
However, towards the end of Wenger’s reign and since the legendary Frenchman left the club in 2018, there have been many success stories.
Below is a list of notable former Arsenal players who have left the club permanently in the last five years and a look at how they have fared in their new environments.
LUKAS PODOLSKI – TO GALATASARAY (2015)
Podolski enjoyed two decent seasons in Turkey, despite failing to win the league title. He scored a respectable 34 goals in 75 games in Istanbul and memorably fired home the winner in the 2016 Turkish Cup against sworn rivals Fenerbahce. He then began to wind down his career in Japan for three seasons before returning to Turkey with Antalyaspor in January of this year.
Verdict: Neither hit nor miss
SERGE GNABRY – TO WERDER BREMEN (2016)
One of Arsenal biggest regrets in recent years was not spotting the incredible potential of Gnabry. He left the Emirates for an undisclosed fee and immediately posted double figures in goals in the 2016-17 season. This encouraged Bayern Munich to snap him up for just €8 million and, after a successful year on loan at Hoffenheim, he would then explode at the German giants. Last season the rapid winger scored 23 goals in all competition as Bayern Munich won the treble.
WOJCIECH SZCZESNY – TO ROMA (2016)
Szczesny is another player whose talent and potential was never realised or recognised in north London. Immediately after leaving England for Italy (initially on loan) he began to show why he had been so highly rated as a youngster. So good was he at Roma he kept Alisson out of the team, which prompted Juventus to sign him permanently in 2018. After a year as Gianluigi Buffon’s understudy, Szczesny has since been the club’s undisputed number one and the most consistent goalkeeper in Serie A.
ISMAEL BENNACER – TO EMPOLI (2017)
Yet another youngster who has developed into one of the best players in his position in his new league since leaving Arsenal. Bennacer made just one appearance for Arsenal but was an instant hit at Empoli, winning promotion in his first season. The midfielder then impressed in Serie A to earn a move to rebuilding giants AC Milan last year. He enjoyed an excellent first season as the Rossoneri exploded into form in 2020. Dictating the play at the base of the midfield he has been a crucial cog for a team who are currently top of Serie A.
ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN – TO LIVERPOOL (2017)
Oxlade-Chamberlain was one of the most highly-rated English players of his generation when he burst onto the scene as a teenager but it felt like he was starting to stagnate when he moved to Liverpool for £35m. Jurgen Klopp immediately got the best out of him in an exceptional first season that was cruelly cut short by a serious injury which ruled him out for almost the entire 2018-19 campaign. Oxlade-Chamberlain returned to fitness to win the Premier League last season as he got his hands on major trophies he never could have dreamed of with Arsenal.
DONYELL MALEN – TO PSV EINDHOVEN (2017)
Will Malen be the next youngster Arsenal will deeply regret letting go for a pittance? An Arsenal youth team player, Malen departed without playing a senior game but has since become a key player for PSV. A pacey attacker likened to a younger Alexis Sanchez, Malen is fast approaching the 50-goal mark in the Netherlands and has already scored for the national team in a Euro 2020 qualifier versus Germany. He also has won the Eredivisie.
THEO WALCOTT – TO EVERTON (2018)
Walcott’s career was already starting to drift away when he left Arsenal for Everton and he never really recaptured his best form, despite some bright moments in 2018-19. The injury-prone winger never won over Carlo Ancelotti when the Italian arrived last season and he has now returned to his first club Southampton.
ALEXIS SANCHEZ – TO MANCHESTER UNITED (2018)
The one big-name player on this list who has really struggled after leaving Arsenal. The Chilean was one of the best players in the Premier League during three-and-a-half outstanding seasons for the Gunners but flopped disastrously after moving to Manchester United in January 2018. He scored just three league goals in two years before signing for Inter last year, first on loan and then permanently. He has improved ever so slightly in Serie A, but he is a shadow of the player he was at Arsenal.
OLIVIER GIROUD – TO CHELSEA (2018)
Most critics considered Giroud well past his best when he signed for Chelsea in January 2018 but he has proved to be very useful at Stamford Bridge. While far from prolific in the Premier League, he has been a key reference point in attack and he was outstanding in Chelsea’s road to Europa League glory in 2018-19. He top-scored in the competition with 11 goals, inevitably scoring and assisting in the final win over former club Arsenal.
JACK WILSHERE – RELEASED (2018)
Wilshere was the golden boy of Arsenal and English football when he emerged as a precocious 16-year-old but injuries took their toll on him and he was released from the club at just 26 in 2018. He moved to the club he idolised as a kid, West Ham, on a free transfer but his two years in East London were a disaster. Regularly injured, he made just 18 appearances and is now without a club at the age of 28.
SANTI CAZORLA – RELEASED (2018)
Even the biggest of Cazorla fans believed that his career was all but over when he left Arsenal after a two-year injury hell in the summer of 2018. At the age of 34 and having not played for over a year due to a chronic Achilles tendon problem, Cazorla was allowed to return to former club Villarreal, seemingly more out of charity. But he returned to fitness and enjoyed a sensational second season at the club, with 11 goals and 10 assists. He even returned to the Spain national team in one of the great recent comeback stories before moving to Al-Sadd this summer.
JEFF REINE-ADELAIDE – TO ANGERS (2018)
Reine-Adelaide never quite made the grade at Arsenal but he has rebuilt his career since returning to France for an undisclosed fee. He so impressed with Angers that Lyon signed him for €25m in the summer of 2019. He was one of the club’s best players during the first half of the season before suffering a serious injury that ended his campaign prematurely. Partly due to financial issues, he has moved on to Nice on a loan with €25m option to buy.
DAVID OSPINA – TO NAPOLI (2018)
The Colombian was mostly a backup goalkeeper during his four years at Arsenal and he was expected to play a similar role after moving to Napoli in 2018, initially on loan and then permanently. However, under coach Rino Gattuso he has become the club’s first-choice goalkeeper and a key part of a team reborn in 2020. His ability to play the ball with his feet has been cited as a key reason for him being chosen ahead of talented young Italian goalkeeper Alex Meret.
AARON RAMSEY – TO JUVENTUS (2019)
The Welshman was a great servant for Arsenal during his 11 years at the club and no one could begrudge him moving to one of Europe’s biggest clubs on a Bosman transfer. His story at Juventus so far, though, has been similar to the one at Arsenal. He has impressed sporadically but has suffered a string of niggling injuries. He did, however, win the Scudetto in 2019-20, which will have justified his decision to move to Italy.
Verdict: Neither hit or miss
ALEX IWOBI – TO EVERTON (2019)
Along with Alexis Sanchez, this is a recent transfer deal that so far Arsenal have emerged well from. The Gunners sold the Nigerian to Everton for a fee that could rise to £34m but his numbers in Merseyside have been disappointing. He has scored just one goal in 32 Premier League matches and has been unable to break into the first team under Carlo Ancelotti this campaign.
HENRIKH MKHITARYAN – TO ROMA (2019)
Mkhitaryran moved to Arsenal in the swap deal involving Alexis and, while he performed much better than the Chilean did for Man Utd, he still was rather underwhelming for the Gunners. However, he has shown some of the best form of his career since moving to Roma in 2019, initially on loan. He scored nine goals in 22 Serie A matches last season, while he already has four in all competitions this campaign.