Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal made a “mistake” selling Ashley Cole to Chelsea in 2006.
Cole – who came through the Arsenal academy and made his first-team debut at the age of 18 – won two Premier League trophies and three FA Cups with the Gunners.
But he left for Chelsea in 2006 having been left unhappy with Arsenal’s new contract offer.
Arsenal initially demanded £25m for Cole but ended up joining the Blues for £5m as William Gallas moved in the other direction as part of the deal.
And Wenger now admits the club should have done more to keep the left-back.
Wenger told beIN Sports: “Well, I would say personally, most of the time, the players gave us seven, eight, nine years and left after.
“The younger generation like [Cesc] Fabregas we lost early and would not have loved to lose him.
“The player I think we, internally, it was a mistake to lose was Ashley Cole.
“Because he was playing at nine, 10 years old for the club. I knew with Fabregas that taking him away from Barcelona, at some stage he’d want to go back to Barcelona.
“But Ashley Cole came out of the club. I think it was a misunderstanding over a few thousand pounds.
“At the time, we spoke about [Roman] Abramovich when he came into the game, Ashley Cole is one of the few players who developed even more and continued to develop when he left.”
Meanwhile, Paul Merson believes Mikel Arteta has got Arsenal playing like “Wenger’s teams in their pomp”.
‘When they won at Watford last weekend, some of the football was like watching Thierry Henry and Dennis Berkgamp and Robert Pires in their prime.
‘Honestly, all three goals in that game were mindblowing. They were absolutely outstanding.
‘The football was absolutely brilliant. They passed, they moved, they were clinical, and they’re playing with a smile on their faces. They’re enjoying it.
‘They all know what they’re doing. Every one of them knows what their job is.’
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