This hasn't aged well.

Where are they now? talkSPORT’s hilariously off-the-mark predicted 2024 Arsenal XI from five years ago

Back in 2019, talkSPORT published an article predicting what Arsenal’s starting XI might look like in the 2024-25 season.

We’re not quite there yet, but it’s safe to say that their prediction has not aged well, with just one of the 11 players they went with starting regularly for Mikel Arteta’s title challengers this season.

“Some late business in the summer transfer window and a solid start to the 2019-20 Premier League season means there is a new wave of optimism at the Emirates Stadium,” began the piece. Unai Emery was sacked just two months later after a string of poor results left them languishing in the bottom half. Ouch.

But what became of those Arsenal players they thought would be mainstays of the team in 2024? We’ve checked back.

GK: Bernd Leno

The German had been brought in as Petr Cech’s successor, ushering in the post-Wenger era at the Emirates when he was signed from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2018.

He started out promisingly enough, getting the nod over Emiliano Martinez, and played over a hundred games for the Gunners before ultimately finding himself usurped by Aaron Ramsdale.

Leno has since proven himself a solid Premier League ‘keeper at Fulham, albeit never quite doing enough to make Arsenal look back with any real regrets at letting him go.

QUIZ: Can you name Arsenal’s XI from Unai Emery’s first game in 2018?

RB: Hector Bellerin

The Spaniard’s electric pace instantly caught the eye when he first started breaking through a decade ago, hinting at a potential future world-beater.

He’s still only 29, so there was some degree of logic in predicting that he’d still be a mainstay of Arsenal’s backline in 2024. But he never really kicked on and injuries robbed him of the dynamism he had in bags as a youngster.

Bellerin terminated his contract in 2022 and is now on his second stint with Real Betis, the club he grew up supporting in Spain.

An all-round good egg, you’d be hard-pressed to find Arsenal fans that don’t wish good things for Bellerin.

CB: William Saliba

Ding ding ding.

Saliba was back out on loan at Saint-Etienne at the time. His potential was never in question, but at one point there were doubts whether Arteta had warmed to him amid a series of loans away.

There’s no questioning that now. Arsenal possess one of the finest centre-backs in Europe and they’ve tied down his future with a contract that runs until 2027.

CB: Rob Holding

“Rob Holding is nearing closer to a return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury and should be in his peak years being 28 by 2024-25,” supposed talkSPORT.

A loyal and at times useful club servant, Holding’s time at the Emirates came to an end last summer after a series of rocky displays in the Gunners’ doomed title run-in.

His ‘peak years’ amount to one appearance for Crystal Palace this season; a 3-0 League Cup defeat to Manchester United.

LB: Kieran Tierney

The one-time Celtic wonderkid is the picture of the perfect full-back from 2005. Bombing up and down the touchline and always looking to attack, following in the lineage of someone like Ashley Cole.

Unfortunately for Tierney that profile of player almost looks antiquated in the modern-day trend for inverting and numerical overloads in midfield.

He’s currently out on loan at Real Sociedad, but he’s only made 11 La Liga starts and his days at his parent club look numbered. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him back at Celtic this summer.

CM: Matteo Guendouzi

There’s a parallel universe in which the curly-haired Frenchman knuckled down and made himself a mainstay of Arsenal’s midfield. But not this reality.

Distinctly unimpressed with the manner in which Guendouzi found himself riled in a sh*thouse-off with Neal Maupay in a match against Brighton back in June 2020, Arteta soon binned the midfielder off.

Since then he’s not done too badly for himself, earning eight caps for France and showing some bright sparks at Marseille. But he currently finds himself out on loan at Lazio and at something of a crossroads in his career.

READ NEXT: 2024 Ballon d’Or power rankings: Kane, Bellingham, Mbappe… or Messi once again?

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every player to appear for Arsenal under Mikel Arteta?

CM: Joe Willock

“This could spell an opportunity for the likes of Joe Willock, who has been given a chance to shine this season and he’s even earned comparisons to the great Andres Iniesta during a pre-season win over Bayern Munich in the summer,” stated talkSPORT.

The Hale End graduate has proven himself at a more than decent level. He produced the best spell of his career out on loan at Newcastle in 2020-21, scoring eight goals in 14 matches, earning himself a £25million move to St. James’ Park.

Willock hasn’t quite hit those heights since but he played a key role in Eddie Howe’s Magpies securing a top-four finish last season and they might’ve done better in 2023-24 had he not spent the vast majority of the campaign out sidelined.

AM: Emile Smith Rowe

Not a bad shout, this one. There was a time in which everybody would have predicted Smith Rowe would kick on to become a future Arsenal stalwart alongside Saka – particularly when he hit double figures for Premier League goals in the 2021-22 season.

But he didn’t make a single league start last term and has only made three this season. A man-of-the-match display in a recent 2-0 win over Luton has demonstrated he hasn’t lost that ability, but you get the increasing sense he’ll have to move on if he wants regular opportunities.

It doesn’t appear that the 24-year-old factors much into Arteta’s thinking.

SS: Nicolas Pepe

CTRL+F “Saka” on that talkSPORT article – no matches found. Oof.

Fair enough, Saka had only played a handful of matches when it was published in September 2019. It would’ve been a bold prediction, back when he was filling it at left-back, that he’d one day supplant club-record signing Pepe.

But that’s exactly what’s happened. Nowadays Pepe is turning out for Turkish Super Lig club Trabzonspor, which tells you everything about the value for money Arsenal got from their £72million investment.

READ: The Premier League table during Unai Emery’s reign at Arsenal

SS: Ainsley Maitland-Niles

“Maitland-Niles is currently serving as a full-back in Bellerin’s absence but you’d imagine he’ll get moved up to his preferred position as a midfielder or winger.”


Frustrated by his lack of chances in the position he saw himself, Maitland-Niles went out on loan to Sam Allardyce’s relegation-destined West Brom in 2021 and subsequently had stints at Roma and Southampton before his contract with Arsenal expired.

Maitland-Niles is currently kicking on at Lyon, but those England caps now feel like a very long time ago.

ST: Eddie Nketiah

Another Hale Ender, Nketiah is still at Arsenal.

He signed a new long-term contract in 2022. This season he scored his first Premier League hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Sheffield United and made his England debut after years of banging in the goals for the Under-21s.

All that sounds pretty good, but it’s difficult to ever see Nketiah ever making it beyond Arteta’s third or fourth choice centre-forward. Minutes have been extremely limited in recent months and he finds himself a long way behind Gabriel Jesus and Kai Havertz in the pecking order.

Nicolas Pepe features in talkSPORT's predicted Arsenal XI of the future from 2019