Recently, I watched on as Cesc Fabregas lined out for Chelsea against Tottenham Hotspurs in the Carling Cup final. The story is all too familiar to long suffering Arsenal fans. Pluck a relatively unknown player from the continent (or anyone from the Barcelona academy), make them a star, only to watch them leave citing aspirations of moving on to bigger and better things (again, Barcelona being a common destination). Another thing which caught my attention was the notable exclusion of another former Gunner plying his trade, albeit sporadically, at Tottenham. Emmanuel Adebayor left in search of bigger and better things yet now finds himself in the footballing wilderness, not wanted by his club and seemingly not worth the risk (or money) for anyone else. All this got me thinking about the age old adage: Is the grass really greener on the other side?
Player performance has been analysed using (i) Starts per substitute appearance (S-P-S) and (ii) Goals to games ratio (G-P-G) and (iii) Differences in market value for the ten most expensive transfers out of Arsenal to determine the success of players at their new clubs following their departure from North London
Column 7, 8 and 9 show the goals per game ratio of players during their time at Arsenal and at their new clubs. On average, players goals per game ratio has fallen by 6% since leaving Arsenal with Thierry Henry (-26%) and Marc Overmars (-19%) the biggest drop after moves to Barcelona. Again, Robin Van Persie proves the exception to the rule with his goals per game ratio increasing by 13% at Old Trafford.
It is evident that with few exceptions most players have performed significantly worse after leaving Arsenal compared to their time in North London. Robin Van Persie is the only player to have improved his performance dramatically since his time at Arsenal and given his recent injury worries, as well as United’s loss of form in the last few seasons, it is not inconceivable that he will follow the trend of many of his illustrious predecessors who despite leaving in search bigger and better things quickly realised that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Stephan Brosnan is a research assistant working in the Department of Economics at University College Cork.