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July 2021

Arsenal has always been a selling club. True or false?

by Tony Attwood

Waiting for the match to start is nerve-wrenching.  I suffer just like many others.  In my case, once the pre-match articles from Phil and Dogface are on line, I sit and wait.  And wait.

OK I am at work, wherein I have certain duties to perform, and there’s the question of the faulty light bulb in the car to get sorted, but by and large the issue is the game.

Phil’s told us the line up.  Dogface tells us the form of the referee, and now?

Among other things I flitter around web sites looking for inspiration.  Which can work – although today it caused annoyance for I found myself reading an article about finance in football which focussed on what the site saw as the inevitable transfer of Van Persie to Man City, following the sale of Nasri, Clichy, and Kolo.  In among the chit chat was the line, and I quote verbatim, “Arsenal has always been a selling club.”

In a literal sense all clubs are selling clubs, since all clubs transfer out players.  But the term “a selling club” is always a derogatory term, suggesting that the club brings on young players and sells them to a bigger club.   Teams in the 3rd division and below tend to be “selling clubs” since if they get a really top player they will move him along, to get in the cash.

But to apply the term to a team with 15 consecutive appearances in the Champions League is well, just a deliberate bit of abuse.

Straight after each major trophy is won Arsenal sell players as they start to build for the next assault.  Sometimes the players don’t want to go, sometimes they see the money they make from the transfer, sometimes they are unhappy at the club and want to leave, sometimes they acknowledge that their time is up, sometimes they know they need another challenge.  It happens.

It certainly happened at the time of the first Double in 1971.  As readers of the Arsenal History quizzes that are being run on the Arsenal History web site will know, a group of players who were central to Arsenal in the 1969/70 victory of the European Fairs Cup then left the club and so didn’t win the cup and league.  There were transfers again after the Double too.

So in one sense Arsenal were a selling club as they achieved that (and indeed each subsequent) double.

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But if the site means that Arsenal now are forced to sell their players in order to survive, that is nonsense.  If however it means that because Chelsea, Man City, Real Mad, Barca and PSG can offer salaries beyond even the insane levels of current salaries, and if it means that because Spain is a two horse race they will probably win things at Barca or Real Mad, then yes, they can  tempt out players who might otherwise stay.  (Although I notice not many English papers comment on the league table in Spain these days).  But still we think perhaps of Flamini who went to Milan when they had more money, Nasri with Man C and Cesc to Barca.  Earlier maybe Henry and Vieira.  Before that, it is true we lost a few.  Brady, Kennedy, Stapleton all come to mind.

But most of these cases (and certainly the recent ones) have more to them than meets the eye.  Flamini was (certainly in the first few years) a very expensive last minute sub in Milan who never achieved a regular position in the side.  Nasri has done better but is not an automatic first choice and was warned by the manager that he had to do more if he wanted a regular first team position.  Cesc had a personal connection, was often injured, and interestingly, led a side that was no more successful than the current team.  Barca needed him more than anything to get Real Mad jibes stopped – although he certainly isn’t going to win a league medal this year.   Henry was on the wane, and as I said in a previous article, was the most expensive player of all time if you calculate the cost of the transfer and the tiny number of minutes he played for Barca.  Vieira went and won championship medals in Italy, and then lost them again as his club was found guilty of match fixing.

One could say then that these players had the best made out of them at Arsenal, and failed elsewhere (although that is not the case either with Kennedy or Brady).  Or, maybe, just maybe, you could say that Arsenal under Mr Wenger pulled off a string of brilliant sales ploys, selling players who were not after all quite as wonderful as we thought (or at least were on the wane) for insane amounts of money.  That’s a thought – Arsenal as a selling club that regularly tricks its competitors into paying infinitely more than they ought to.  (OK I know Flamini was a free, so that doesn’t work – but he basically had one good season with us, and quite possibly Mr Wenger realised there was no guarantee that the form of one season would continue.  And he was right – at least we got rid of his salary).

Anyway, there are still quite a few hours to go before the match, so, in tune with my thoughts of players past, I am proud to announce the latest Arsenal History Society quiz relating to the 1971 Double.   Some of the questions are surely answerable by any and every fan of the club.   But some are a little nerdy.  And some relate to the players who were sold by Arsenal, the famous selling club.

This is the third quiz in our sequence, and below the quiz today there are the questions and answers for yesterday’s quiz.  But in case you want to go from the very start, here is the complete set…

The Arsenal Double Quiz Part 1:  The build up to the famous first Double

The Arsenal Double Quiz Part 2: Achieving the Double!

The Arsenal Double Quiz Part 3: 10 more questions on the 71 Double

The quizzes are part of the work of the Arsenal History Society, which is itself part of Arsenal Independent Supporters Association.

The Society publishes are regular blog here and has been involved in the creation of “Making the Arsenal” – the story of the club in 1910 – the year when the old club finally collapsed and the new club was born.  We are also working on a book about Woolwich Arsenal, and another one on Arsenal in the 1970s.

There are some links below.

Six and a half hours til kick off.


Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.  Have your name in the book as an official sponsorUpdated information here

When Arsenal and Fulham were within moments of merging into one club… full details in “Making the Arsenal”

14 comments to Arsenal has always been a selling club. True or false?

  • slick

    No i disagree arsenal are not a selling club. Arsenal have always lost players bcuz either they were greedy or they wanted to go and win silverware elsewhere arsenal have never sold players for their financial interests.

  • El Tel

    Henry was sold to Barca, He probably didn’t want to leave. He had injury problems and was slowing down plus He had personal problems with His Wife and Child.

    A good move from Weger at the time was to sell. You wouldn’t have thought so if you had press the papers back then.

  • dom

    so who have arsenal sold who have made an impact at the club they moved to with the acception of fabregas and overmars, i cant think of a player who reached the heights they made at arsenal. i think we do things properly, by that i mean if a player causes a fuss we should just get rid of him because no player is bigger than the team, if they want to move then good riddance there attitude makes them the fool not the club, i am hoping rvp is not like this. i do not believe that he is tempted by money like those who shall not be named. in my view arsenal are the best team in the world because they can actually control their players unlike the megga rich man city, man u, real madrid.

  • Damien Luu

    @El Tel: Nonsense. Henry just needed other challenges. He always wanted to go elsewhere in Europe, and then the States.

    In a world embracing the insane transfer fees and player salaries, it is no surprise that many people think Arsenal are not a real big club because Arsenal don’t spend big money on big names and instead sell their big names for big money. But for me, if you spend little money to buy less famous players, pull the best out of them and turn them into superstars, then sell them for big money (after their best years of course), I don’t know what to call you but genius, and I don’t know what to call your work but brilliance.

  • rantetta

    ♫Sell when they wan-na
    They always sell when they wan-na
    Arsenal make bi-ig mo-ney
    And pro-mote nice new-ew talent♫

    I’ll work on it – perhaps not.

    Tony, you’re not alone in suffering the wait of a fresh match, although I found myself having to walk 9 miles today – so I haven’t wasted the time. (Apart from my silly post?)

    One of those sold, a certain TH14/12, has made the news:

  • Ettienne

    @El Tel

    Henry wanted to go to Barca. Wenger even said he did him that favor by selling him to Barca.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Just a perfect day. Welcome to 3rd. 🙂

  • LRV

    Job done for tonight. Now let’s start getting ready for the next game.

  • RedGooner

    Not sure a selling club to me is a club that sells as players reach their potential and fail to realise that potential with their current club.
    I think when Arsenal renegotiate the kit deals etc that will all change.

    But for tonight another 3 points and another great performance lets put more daylight between the chasing pack on saturday 🙂

  • nicky

    There could be a number of reasons why Arsenal sell players who have not quite reached their potential (in their eyes) e.g.
    Flamini, Hleb, Nasri etc.
    If money is the reason, Arsenal’s strict wage structure could be the cause.
    If the lack of silverware is involved, Arsenal have never been consistent champions of either League or Cup competitions. Not since the 1930’s has the Club RETAINED a Championship.
    I think that historically, Arsenal have never attempted to retain a player who has wanted to leave, for any reason and IMO, I’m sure this policy has been the right one to follow.
    A player who is unhappy or homesick (like Fabregas) is no use to Club or team alike.
    Finally, there are players who just wish to test if the grass is greener on the other side and in rare cases their move has been successful, e.g.Ray Kennedy and Frank Stapleton.

  • rantetta

    Arsenal are a “buying” club!

    They buy players at their correct value, and don’t put up with any dodgy business in doing so, including staff taking bungs.

    They buy land and build a first class training centre. Ta, farca.

    They buy land and build a new stadium.

    They buy the hearts and souls of millions of footy, and even non-footy fans – with integrity, honesty and beautiful football, played by a group of young men who are largely personable, intelligent and trustworthy.

    They don’t buy the ref. That’s bye the bye.

    Any more?

    So, Tony, was the match-wait worth it?

    Bye bye.

  • rantetta

    BY the way, I’m not entirely sure if this is on or off topic. (Is there any buying or selling in this wonderful article? What does it tell us? What can we learn)? Clue: Charity work.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    We are not a selling club but have always sold well .
    Anelka was a good sell – he was distruptive and he had to go .And who was his replacement ?
    TH14 – who became a legend and IMO was sold for a good profit at the right time.
    Brady had served us well and his wish to go to Italy was granted. He did come back to play for West Ham,which has been an elephant’s graveyard for many former Arsenal players -Steve Walford ,Steward Robson,John Hartson, Ian Wright ,Davor Suker ,Kaba Diawara ,Nigel Winterburn,Lauren &Freddie Ljungberg.
    Stapleton was not a big loss as Alan Sunderland ,Paul Mariner were adequate replacements .
    Ray Kennedy was a good signing for Liverpool and a big loss for us .

  • Rich_Fryer

    Cashley has done well since leaving us under the Wenger era, but there aren’t many others.
    Cesc always wanted to go back to Barca and was being kicked to death over here.
    Thierry needed space and distance as his marriage collapsed.