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Arsenal: the best feeder club in the world

The Gunners have sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United for £24 million while Alex Song is likely to follow him out of north London and join Barcelona in a £15m deal

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By Greg Stobart

The lesson has become ever clearer over the years but Arsenal never seem to learn it; if you are to compete for the highest honours, you cannot keep selling your best players to rival clubs.

Perhaps it all started when Ashley Cole was sold to Chelsea in 2006 after a protracted, ugly transfer saga that eventually saw the left-back move across London.

HIGH PROFILE ARSENAL DEPARTURES
 ROBIN VAN PERSIE
Scored 37 goals in what proved to be his eighth and last season with Arsenal. Declined to sign a new contract and joined fierce rivals Manchester United.
 CESC FABREGAS
Ended his long association with the Gunners when he re-joined boyhood club Barcelona in a lengthy transfer saga which took place last summer.
 SAMIR NASRI
Infuriated Arsenal fans by letting his contract run down to a year before signing for Manchester City. Accused of being greedy but won Premier League in first season.
 GAEL CLICHY
Lower profile transfer than Nasri but France full-back was another key player to move on and taste success elsewhere as he celebrated the title at Eastlands.
 EMMANUEL ADEBAYOR
Arsenal cashed in on their star striker, receiving £25m as he joined Manchester City. Later went on to play for Tottenham, making him even more unpopular with fans.
 KOLO TOURE
A remaining member of the Gunners' famous invincibles team, Toure was sold to big-spending Manchester City in the summer of 2009.
 ASHLEY COLE
Infuriated supporters by rejecting a new contract and being fined for illegal contact with Chelsea. Has gone on to win every trophy available at Stamford Bridge.
In the six years since, Cole has won Premier League titles, FA Cups and the Champions League, while the Gunners have failed to triumph in any major competitions.

Maybe it started before then, as far back as the sales of Marc Overmars or Nicolas Anelka - though they were, of course, replaced by Robert Pires and Thierry Henry.

Either way, Arsenal are now a feeder club. One notch below the big boys.

The pattern of behaviour that saw Cole leave Arsenal has continued. The message has constantly been sent out that Arsene Wenger's star men have a price. Roll up, roll up.

Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy are Premier League winners after swapping the Emirates Stadium for Manchester City last summer, while Cesc Fabregas is playing in one of the greatest club sides ever.

The Spaniard will soon be joined at Camp Nou by Alex Song, who is on the verge of a £15 million transfer after a breakthrough in talks between the two clubs.

It is a well trodden path, one taken by Thierry Henry - Arsenal's greatest ever goalscorer - in 2007,  Alexander Hleb in 2008, Giovani van Bronkhorst in 2003 and Fabregas last summer.

Sometimes, these players fail to go on to greater things, but the fact is that Arsenal are not at the top table of European football, so those that are feel they can cherry pick the Londoners' best players.

Wenger is a genius in spotting talent and selling players for far more than they cost in the first place, but there are no prizes for having the best bank balance in English football.

Robin van Persie is the latest player to leave the Gunners after backing them into a corner by refusing to sign a new contract.

But what must be really galling for the Arsenal supporters is that he has moved to Manchester United, a direct competitor and a rival in the Premier League.

How can Arsenal ever compete for the title when they sell their best players, key members of the first-team, to the Manchester clubs?

With both Nasri and Van Persie, Arsenal threatened to hold the players to their contracts... but blinked first.

The world knows they are a selling club, and Wenger is constantly forced to deal with the blow of losing players he considered an important part of the club's future.

The squad has been strengthened this summer with the arrivals of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla, only to then take a step back with the departure of the club captain, last season's double player of the year.
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It is a trend, it seems, that Arsenal will struggle to reverse. If, say, Manchester City made a move for Laurent Koscielny next summer, you would fancy that a deal would be done.

Every year Wenger has to prepare for the new season with uncertainty surrounding the future of important players, with sagas that undermine all his work to get the squad ready for the campaign.

You hope that in the future, Arsenal can make a stand and get themselves back towards to top of the food chain. Sadly, that seems unlikely to happen.

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