Arsenal have not been able to replicate their domestic dominance of the late 90s and early 00s in the past decade and a half, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had good players.
In fact, if Wenger had been able to keep all his players from the 00s and early part of this decade, he would have had a decent team, wouldn’t he?
FA Cups notwithstanding, perhaps this team might have done even more if all the classy players remained. Off the back of the news that Aaron Ramsey has signed for Juventus on a free transfer for £400,000-a-week, here’s who we think would be in the 2012/13 Arsenal team had everyone stayed put, as well as some reserve options.
GK: Wojciech Szczesny (Fabianski)
The No.1 back in 2012 was none other than Poland international Szczesny. Following the release of Manuel Almunia that summer, the now Juventus man was entrusted with the starting berth, although he enjoyed a patchy time before more fully establishing himself in later seasons. Fellow Pole Lukasz Fabianski, now of West Ham (and generally of higher regard now) warms the bench.
RB: Bacary Sagna (Eboué)
The French full-back was a great servant to the north London club, making 284 appearances and going on to win the FA Cup with Arsenal in 2014, but it might have been so much more had the Gunners kept their stars during his tenure. As it was, the player left London for Man City for free, going on to win much more. Fill-in functionary Eboue deputises for Sagna.
CB: Laurent Koscielny (Kolo Toure)
Koscielny was Arsenal’s best centre-back of the late-Wenger years, and so rightfully takes his place in this 2012/13 side. On the undercard is former-invincible Kolo Toure, who made 326 appearances for the Gunners.
CB: Thomas Vermaelen
Before injuries and form curtailed his career, Thomas Vermaelen was the actual best late-Wenger defender. By 2012 he was club captain, but a dodgy season saw him lose out to Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in defence. Still, a peak Vermaelen would get in this team.
LB: Ashley Cole (Gael Clichy)
If Ashley Cole had stayed on at Arsenal, as he apparently wanted to do but for the lack of wages Arsenal were prepared to offer, then the club might have won more under Wenger. As it was, Cole won eight trophies, including the Champions League in 2012, with Chelsea. Going into the 2012-13 season, Cole was still at the peak of his powers, while Gael Clichy would have been a worthy stand-in.
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CDM: Alex Song (Mikel Arteta)
Alex Song was a potential heir to the Viera throne in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield, and for a few seasons he performed like it for the Gunners. Not as defensively minded as the Frenchman, but creative and capable of the sublime pass, making him the perfect foil for his fellow midfielders in this formation. Passing metronome and former Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta deputises for Song here.
CM: Santi Cazorla (Jack Wilshere)
Probably one of the if not the fan favourite of the last seven years, Santi Cazorla in his pomp gave Arsenal terrific passing and dribbling ability from midfield and he enjoyed a stellar first season in 2012/13, scoring 12 in 38 Premier League games. Perennial man of the future Jack Wilshere is not a bad back-up.
CM: Cesc Fabregas (Abou Diaby)
The Spaniard was already at Barcelona by 2012, but imagine if he wasn’t. In his final year at Arsenal he notched 11 assists, the year before, 13, and before that 8, all while making less than 27 league appearances a season. Oh how they missed him. Diaby, who had a couple of decent spells of form when he wasn’t injured, comes on to shore things up (a bit).
CAM: Samir Nasri (Aaron Ramsey)
The Frenchman had his best years at Arsenal no question, and when you think about, with him at the tip of this midfield diamond, Arsenal’s 2012-13 side could have been a proto-Man City of the Pep era. So much class and ability. Juventus-bound Ramsey fills in at centre-attacking midfield in Nasri’s absence.
ST: Robin van Persie (Carlos Vela)
The Dutchman famously went to Man Utd that season, pretty much single-handedly tipping the balance in favour of United as they won the Premier League for the 13th time, beating out Man City by 11 points. But if that hadn’t happened? There’s no doubt given how he performed for Ferguson that Van Persie would have been in 30-goals a season form for Arsenal. He scored 30 goals in 48 appearances in all competitions. Carlos Vela, the exciting Mexican forward, would have been a decent substitute.
ST: Emmanuel Adebayor (Olivier Giroud)
Adebayor was also a top player for Arsenal in his time there, scoring 62 goals in 142 games in all competitions. Of course by the time 2012-13 came around, he was at Spurs, doing that salute celebration and seeing his goals dry up a bit. Olivier Giroud, who boasted a similar player profile to Adebayor, offers up the competition to the Togolese forward in this squad.