Survey a group of Arsenal fans and you'd probably find mixed opinion on the impending departure of Emmanuel Eboue to Turkish side. Cruelly labelled a 'misfit' by some – the Ivorian had his difficult times at the Emirates and only made 13 league appearances last season – but to sections of the support he'd ended up becoming something of a cult figure at a club he joined from Beveren of Belgium in January 2005.
Arsenal invested a reported £1m in Eboue back then, so the £4m figure said to be agreed with Galatasaray represents yet another healthy profit for Arsene Wenger in the transfer market – something which has done so much to put Arsenal on a sound financial footing over the years. However, this coming season more than ever before, Wenger really doesn't need another pat on the back from the bank manager; he needs silverware and for that reason Eboue's departure holds a little bit of added significance.
Although not in the match-day squad for the 2005 FA Cup Final win over Manchester United, Eboue was very much an Arsenal player when the Gunners won their last piece of major silverware – in fact he started matches against Stoke City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United en route to the Millennium Stadium. Now that Eboue has left for Turkey it means only four players remain who know what a winning Arsenal dressing room feels like: Robin van Persie, Johan Djourou, Manuel Almunia and Cesc Fabregas. Significant when you consider that just last season Club Captain Cesc Fabregas felt compelled enough to complain about a lack of 'winning mentality' at Arsenal, saying the squad had plenty of quality but lacked that added confidence and belief that only silverware can bring.
It's also significant when you consider another man who was at the club back in 2005. Gael Clichy has already left for Manchester City this summer, declaring he wanted to play for a club that didn't just challenge for trophies but actually won them.
Of course some will take the view that both Clichy and Eboue have also been part of Arsenal squads that have flattered to deceive over the last six years and they are perhaps as culpable as other players who've never helped bring silverware to the club. It's also worth pointing out that Arsenal's first big signing of this summer, Gervinho, arrives in England fresh from winning a league and cup double with Lille in France. However, a quick comparison with others clubs with a realistic chance of challenging for the Premier League title tells you Arsene Wenger needs all the 'winners' he can get his hands on. Within the current Arsenal squad there is not one player with a Premier League winners medal.
Manchester United's current squad can boast 62 Premier League winners medals – shared among 20 players – and the total was much higher before the departures of O'Shea and Brown and the retirements of Neville, Scholes and Van der Sar. Chelsea's current squad can boast 31 Premier League winners medals – shared among 17 players – including Ashley Cole and Nicolas Anelka who both won the title with Arsenal.
How much was their path to success eased though by the considerable presence of men who'd been there seen it and done it like Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Steve Bould?
Manchester City's current squad has 7 Premier League winners medals – shared among 6 players – including Stuart Taylor, Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy who all won the title with Arsenal. Liverpool's current squad has 4 Premier League winners medals – shared between Joe Cole (3) and Glen Johnson (1).
Perhaps the only crumb of comfort to Arsenal fans is that the Tottenham squad is also without a single Premier League winners medal – by virtue of the fact that Carlo Cudicini didn't register the required number of appearances whilst at Chelsea in both their 2004/05 and 2005/06 title winning seasons. In total, since the Premier League began in 1992/93, a total of 353 winners medals have been handed out to 161 different players and 38 of them won the trophy with Arsenal. Whether that number is added to with names likes Fabregas, Nasri and van Persie will rely heavily on the man who has orchestrated each of Arsenal's 3 Premier League title wins to date.
Arsene Wenger's first title came in 1997/98 – a brilliant squad that also won the FA Cup that season and included first-time Premier League title winners such as Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira, Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit. How much was their path to success eased though by the considerable presence of men who'd been there seen it and done it like Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Steve Bould?
Of course that added nous is never more valuable than in the 'run-in' - the stage of the season when the modern Arsenal has seemed to struggle most. In the 2009/10 season Arsenal took 17 points from their final 10 league games – compared to 25 for Manchester United and 25 for Chelsea. In the 2010/11 season Arsenal took 11 points from their final 10 league games –compared to 20 for Manchester United and 20 for Chelsea.
Clearly the challenge for Wenger is to find the sprinkling of players who can help his hugely talented squad bridge that gap and turn undoubted promise into success. Winners with a ruthless streak are needed and the capture of Gervinho is undoubtedly a considered step in the right direction.
The question is how many more like him will follow and will Emmanuel Eboue really be the last of a dying breed to leave the Emirates this summer?
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