Where are they now? The 2009 Arsenal XI almost shocked by Standard Liège

Nostalgia

Standard Liège’s new generation announced themselves in 2009, almost shocking a strong Arsenal XI.

The Belgian champions were playing their first ever game in the Champions League, though they’d been involved in the old European Cup decades earlier, and had future talents like Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel on their books.

Arsenal didn’t know what had hit them when Eliaquim Mangala and Milan Jovanović struck inside the first five minutes, but Arsène Wenger’s men would eventually turn things around with a goal on the stroke of half-time and two more in the final 15 minutes.

Vito Mannone

The start in Belgium was one of eight for Mannone in the 2009-10 season, representing around a third of his overall tally in an Arsenal shirt.

He was caught out by Mangala’s early low shot, though Arsenal’s failure to clear their lines from a set-piece can also be blamed, and he couldn’t do much about Jovanović’s penalty.

The Italian has spent most of the last decade in England but is spending 2019 with Minnesota United after joining the MLS club on loan from Reading.

Emmanuel Eboué

Eboué, along with Mannone and Nicklas Bendtner, is one of three members of the Arsenal starting XI in Liège to also spend part of his career on Sunderland’s books.

The Ivorian didn’t spend long there, though, picking up a ban for failing to pay a former agent before he was able to make his Black Cats debut.

Eboué has struggled with his mental health since the ban, opening up about his troubles in a recent interview, but has been reportedly pursuing coaching roles as an avenue back into football.

William Gallas

The 2009-10 season was Gallas’ last as an Arsenal player, with the one-time Gunners captain crossing the north London divide to join Tottenham.

He had already scored several goals, including one in the Champions League play-off round victory over Celtic, but his season ended on a low point after disappointment with France at a World Cup he had helped his country qualify for with a controversial goal against Ireland.

After retiring following a spell in the A-League with Perth Glory, Gallas moved into punditry in his native France.

Thomas Vermaelen

Vermaelen was just a few games into his Arsenal career when he was given the chance to go toe-to-toe with Belgian international colleagues Witsel and Igor de Camargo.

The former Ajax man never played more than the 45 games he managed in that first season, with injury limiting him to just 150 games in five years at Arsenal.

He’s now playing for Vissel Kobe in Japan alongside the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Lukas Podolski, making his debut for the club in August.

Gaël Clichy

A regular for Arsenal for a very long time, Clichy featured a little less in the 2009-10 campaign due to injury, with Mikaël Silvestre and Kieran Gibbs offering cover.

He didn’t add to his one and only Premier League goal, scored the previous season, though he did enough to earn a spot in France’s squad for the World Cup in South Africa.

Having joined Manchester City in 2011, Clichy moved to İstanbul Başakşehir in 2017 and is still at the Turkish club. He has played with plenty of former Premier League players in Istanbul, with current team-mates including Demba Ba and new arrival Martin Škrtel.

Abou Diaby

Every day, we find ourselves wondering what might have happened if Abou Diaby had been able to realise his potential for Arsenal.

The French midfielder’s injury woes have been well-documented, and the 40 games he played for Arsenal in 2009-10 made up nearly a quarter of his overall tally across nine years in north London.

He announced his retirement from football in 2019, saying: “For a number of years it has been difficult for me to return, with a lot of physical problems.”

Tomáš Rosický

More of the same here, sadly, with Rosický also forced to call time on his career after far too many injury-enforced interruptions.

The Czech international was making only his second appearance of the season against Standard, having missed the entirety of the 2008-09 campaign, and made way for Aaron Ramsey in Arsenal’s first change of the evening.

He retired in 2017 after a brief return to Sparta Prague, where he now serves as sporting director.

Alex Song

Song was approaching his Arsenal pinnacle in the 2009-10 season but kicked on even more the next two years.

The Cameroonian set up Vermaelen’s equaliser in Belgium but really came into his own at Arsenal in the 2011-12 season after Cesc Fàbregas’ departure.

Song moved to Switzerland in 2018, helping FC Sion stay afloat in his first season with the club.

Cesc Fàbregas

The 2009-10 season was Fàbregas’ most productive in front of goal, scoring 15 times in the league and a further four in Europe – including a penalty he put away with a broken leg against Barcelona.

The Catalan midfielder ended the season as a World Cup winner with Spain, having recovered from that injury in time to make four substitute appearances in South Africa.

After stints at Barcelona and Chelsea, he joined Monaco in January 2019 and is part of the Ligue 1 club’s 2019-20 squad, picking up a red card against Lyon on the opening weekend of the season.

Nicklas Bendtner

Bendtner scored the goal that brought Arsenal back into the game, halving the deficit just before half-time, and finished the 2009-10 season with five Champions League goals, including a hat-trick against Porto.

Since the 2009-10 season, he’s been around the houses with stints at Juventus and Wolfsburg among others, but he’s been back in Scandinavia since 2017.

After three seasons with Rosenborg, the Dane returned home at the end of the summer transfer window to join FC Copenhagen.

Eduardo

Eduardo made his comeback from long-term injury in 2009, playing his first games in a full year after a tackle from Birmingham’s Martin Taylor kept him out for the bulk of the 2008-09 campaign.

The Croatia international scored in the opening day victory over Everton and added to his tally with the winner in Liège nine minutes from time.

He scored a total of six goals in 2009-10, his final Arsenal season before being sold to Shakhtar, and spent time around Europe and South America before returning home to Brazil after leaving Legia Warsaw in 2018.


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