Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus were plucked from the unlimited pockets of Man City but Arsenal know champions tend to keep their best and brightest.
10) Jonathan Greening (Man Utd to Middlesbrough, 2001)
While the recent trend is to describe him as ‘unrecognizable’ because shorter, grayer hair and a beard adorn the exact same face, Jonathan Greening was once “good enough to play in any other Premier League team”. It slightly dilutes his point that Greening himself was required to make that grandiose self-assessment when the 22-year-old publicly aired his demand for more playing time at Man Utd in March 2001, but Middlesbrough offered the midfielder a chance to prove his point of him in a smaller pond.
Greening went from playing 27 games in four Man Utd seasons, of which 13 were starts, to becoming a regular for Steve McClaren’s side. He earned a call-up to an England training squad in November 2002, was named Boro’s Player of the Year in 2003 and helped them win the League Cup in 2004. Greening left for West Brom that same year to continue his doomed quest to prove his suitability to any other top flight club.
9) Oriol Romeu (Chelsea to Southampton, 2015)
There can be no greater compliment – nor a purer Chelsea sentiment – than Roberto Di Matteo suggesting Oriol Romeu could be the successor to John Obi Mikel. The 2011/12 season was a choice one in which to move to the Blues as La Masia graduate Romeu soon got a taste of vintage Stamford Bridge: FA Cup and Champions League trophies, a manager sacking and a pair of loans, before Southampton chucked £ 5m in the direction of Jose Mourinho.
Romeu thrived on the south coast, prowling the halfway line for seven years in constant search of ankles to snap at. The Spaniard’s highlight at St Mary’s was a Player of the Season nod in the campaign they reached the League Cup final, with an uncharacteristically giddy Claude Puel describing him as “not far off Kante”. Romeu sits joint-34th for all-time Premier League yellow cards alongside Luis Boa Morte, Lucas Neill, Chris Perry and David Unsworth, which is some legacy.
8) Kieran Richardson (Man Utd to Sunderland, 2007)
An injury to Gabriel Heinze in September 2005 afforded a rare opportunity for 20-year-old Kieran Richardson to state his Man Utd case. A new four-year contract during a season in which he made 36 appearances would suggest he was successful in that endeavor but a particularly dreadful display in a narrow League Cup victory over Crewe had Sir Alex Ferguson publicly declaring Richardson would “be spending some time in the reserves now”.
That is, in all fairness, a completely fair description of Sunderland who, for a time, hoarded all the Old Trafford cast-offs they could find. Richardson walked to the Stadium of Light so Paddy McNair, John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Fraizer Campbell and Phil Bardsley could lumber themselves around unconvincingly. Sunderland was actually the best period of Richardson’s career from a performance standpoint as he developed a consistency, solidity and versatility which earned a few England recalls and even a nod for 2010 World Cup inclusion. Not certain he’d have kept Mesut Ozil quiet, mind.
7) William Gallas (Chelsea to Arsenal, 2006)
The Birmingham debacle can be difficult to look beyond and wearing the No.10 shirt was objectively worse but William Gallas spent four typically solid years at Arsenal, joining as part of the deal which shipped Ashley Cole off to Chelsea. While few would doubt the Blues got the better of that part-exchange, the Gunners did at least get a competent if disruptive defender in return.
In tandem with Arsenal partners Kolo Toure, Thomas Vermaelen, Philippe Senderos, Johan Djourou and even Sol Campbell for 55 minutes of a goalless draw – obviously – against Aston Villa in January 2010, Gallas proved his worth and excellent reading of the game. It’s just a shame about his inability to read the room, although describing his younger teammates as “not brave enough in battle” was hardly the hottest Arsenal take at the time.
6) Scott Parker (Chelsea v Newcastle, 2005)
Made captain within a year, as is standard, Scott Parker remains at least for a little longer the last skipper to guide Newcastle to silverware-based glory. One must be careful not to describe the Intertoto plaque that he was presented with as a trophy but still, Kieran Trippier could never. Parker steered the Magpies towards serene waters for two years under Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder and caretaker manager Nigel Pearson, enhancing his England prospects and never once experimenting with his hair.
5) Carlton Cole (Chelsea v West Ham, 2006)
With 216 appearances and 41 goals, Carlton Cole sits third and fourth respectively on all-time Premier League lists for West Ham; his £3m move from Chelsea in 2006 was a triumph, if not an entirely resounding one. But most important of all, he played an indirect part in one of the greatest deadline stories ever conceived. Take it away, Ryan Babel:
“It was the last day of the window, the director of football wanted to sign Cole from West Ham and send me on loan in a swap. He called me and said, ‘Hey, you can go to West Ham.’ I thought that wouldn’t be bad; I can play regularly and build my confidence. But it was 12pm and the window closed at six so we didn’t have much time. He told me to come to the airport so we can go to London by helicopter. I hate flying so I was nervous. The whole ride was bumpy. When we arrived, we got into the car and Comolli was on the phone constantly. Then he said to me, ‘There is a five-year deal, you’re going to sign it and with that money, we’ll buy Cole.’ I was confused – it was a loan and then it became a five-year contract! I called my agent and he said ‘absolutely not’, so there was no deal. And then he sent me back on the train and he took the helicopter. Now, every window the ‘Babelcopter’ still makes an appearance on Twitter.”
#babelcopter on the move
— Ryan Babel (@Ryanbabel) January 31, 2022
4) Petr Cech (Chelsea to Arsenal, 2015)
Although Petr Cech fell someway short of John Terry’s prediction that the keeper “will save them 12 or 15 points a season”, Arsenal certainly benefited from the helmeted one’s brand of reliability after years of Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Manuel Almunia.
Cech added to his own personal legacy with an FA Cup and a fresh set of Golden Gloves, retiring with the humbling experience of picking the ball out of his net four times against former club Chelsea in the 2019 Europa League final. The Blues were hardly made to regret letting him go as many prophesised, but the thought of the unserious iteration of Arsenal navigating that difficult period without Cech’s steady hands is wince-inducing.
3) Teddy Sheringham (Man Utd to Spurs, 2001)
An incredibly popular (with his own fanbase), English, Golden Boot-winning Tottenham striker who entered his 30s without a major honor to match his goalscoring prowess, Teddy Sheringham was forced to leave north London to join Man Utd and complete his career ambitions. Four years later he was back at White Hart Lane, three Premier League titles, a Champions League winner’s medal and a few other trinkets in tow.
With nothing left to prove and a Ruud van Nistelrooy-shaped obstacle in his way by 2001, Sheringham sought solace in more familiar climes. As the reigning PFA Player and FWA Footballer of the Year he helped Spurs to their highest Premier League finish in six years, as well as a League Cup final. Go on, Harry Kane. We dare you to try it. Cowards.
2) Dion Dublin (Man Utd to Coventry, 1994)
Failing to make the requisite number of Premier League appearances to qualify for a winner’s medal in either 1992/93 or 1993/94 was suitable motivation for Dion Dublin to find the Man Utd exit, even if the club did secure special dispensation for the striker’s contribution to the former success. Coventry showed him the stairs going up to the bedroom and one record fee later, Dublin was Highfield Road-bound.
It went well: 152 games, 63 goals, one-third of a Golden Boot, one lesson taught to Shay Givenfour seasons of Premier League survival and four England caps, before Coventry almost tripled their initial outlay when Aston Villa came calling.
1) N’Golo Kante (Leicester to Chelsea, 2016)
With all due respect to the non-playing Mark Schwarzer, not since Eric Cantona had a player won consecutive English top-flight league titles with different clubs. Then N’Golo Kante drove his Mini Cooper into our collective hearts and achieved the unfathomable.
The Frenchman’s combined record in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 Premier League seasons was P72 W50 D14 L8 F144 A67. Kante remains excellent but he was peerless and crucially almost always available at his peak di lui, a one-man midfield who dragged Leicester and Chelsea from mid-table to the summit.