Where are they now? Arsenal’s 11 wonderkids from Football Manager 2014
As we now approach the 10-year anniversary of Football Manager 2014, we thought it would only be right to check in on Arsenal’s 11 wonderkids from that game and see where they are now.
The Gunners were incredibly optimistic at the start of 2013-14 after the signing of Mesut Ozil and led the Premier League table for months before seeing their title challenge wither in February and March 2014.
But the future of the club looked bright, with a number of immensely talented youngsters at the club. Here are Arsenal’s 11 wonderkids from Football Manager 2014 and where they are today.
Listed under his Christian name ‘Damian Martinez’ back then, the Argentinian had been with the Gunners since arriving as a 17-year-old from boyhood club Independiente in 2010.
He received his first taste of senior football as a teenager during an emergency loan to Oxford United – a chastening 3-0 defeat to Port Vale – and loans to Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, Wolves, Getafe and Reading followed in his youth.
The goalkeeper was toughened up by his experience in the Football League and eventually emerged to feature for the Gunners in the latter half of the 2010s – the highlight being his starring role in the Gunners’ 2020 FA Cup triumph.
Now 31, Martinez is one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League at Aston Villa and played a starring role in Argentina’s World Cup success last year.
CAN’T GET OVER THESE 20 SECS. pic.twitter.com/UrnBWBhfcO
— 𝔸Z 𓅓 (@devil_may___cry) January 24, 2023
Bellerin signed from Barcelona’s academy in 2011 before making his Arsenal debut two years later.
The right-back would become a regular presence in the Gunners line-up, making 239 appearances before falling out with Mikel Arteta and finding himself marginalised from the first-team squad.
His contract was terminated at Arsenal to allow him to join Barcelona on a free transfer in the summer of 2022, but he made just seven appearances before departing for Sporting Lisbon mid-season.
He’s now back in La Liga once again with Real Betis, which is very cool.
Despite never making an appearance for the senior Arsenal team, Aneke has enjoyed a solid career in the Football League.
Having helped Arsenal’s Under-18 side to the Premier Academy League in 2009-10, a succession of loans followed, including two seasons at Crewe where he was the top goal scorer in the 2013-14 season.
He left Arsenal at the end of his contract in 2014 and signed for Belgian side Zulte Waregem. He spent two seasons there before returning to England and Charlton Athletic, where he still plays today.
There was once great excitement over Miyaichi, of whom Wenger once said: “He has raw ability which has attracted many clubs around the world. I look forward to helping him fulfil his potential here.”
The Japanese winger had impressed on loan at Feyenoord and many expected him to kick on following his return to parent club Arsenal in the summer of 2011. But he only ever made seven appearances (one in the Premier League) and left for Bundesliga II side FC St. Pauli in 2014.
He spent six years in Germany, but his career has been plagued with injuries and he’s back in his home country with Yokohama F. Marinos nowadays.
Probably the biggest success on this list, Gnabry is continuing to win trophy after trophy at Bayern Munich despite never convincing Tony Pulis of his worth.
Oxlade-Chamberlian spent six years at Arsenal and made nearly 200 appearances for the club. During that time he realised his early potential on many occasions, if not consistently, before going on to become an important member of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side for a short period.
The midfielder won all there is to win at Anfield, although due to injuries he was peripheral at best in most of those trophy triumphs. Now 30, he joined Besiktas over the summer.
Crowley spent time at Aston Villa and Arsenal as a youth player, but never made the grade at Premier League level.
After leaving the Emirates permanently in 2017, the midfielder played for Hull, Birmingham and Cheltenham in between spells with Dutch side Willem II.
He joined Morecambe last January, but his two goals in 21 appearances were unable to prevent their relegation to League Two. Crowley joined upwardly mobile Notts County over the summer and headed the winner on his debut in a 3-2 win over Grimsby.
Zelalem was tipped for stardom after joining Arsenal’s academy in 2013, being spoken of as the next Cesc Fabregas by some rather excited observers.
“He sees passes that not a lot of players can. You think ‘What’s he doing?’ and suddenly someone is in. He’s only 16 and he’s an exciting player,” Jack Wilshere said at the time.
However, Zelalem failed to make an impact at the Emirates and joined Sporting Kansas City in the MLS after loan spells with Rangers and VVV Venlo.
Now 26, the midfielder recently moved to FC Den Bosch in the Dutch second tier.
A youth prospect who spent time at La Masia, Arsenal signed Toral for £300,000 back in 2011. The youngster then spent the next three seasons out on loan and never managed to make a first-team appearance for the Gunners despite his promising reputation.
Injuries have plagued the Spanish playmaker for the majority of his career and, after stints with Hull City and Birmingham in the Championship, he is now turning out for OFI Crete in Greece.
Akpom excelled in Arsenal’s youth teams but was never able to replicate that form with the first team.
The striker had six loan spells away from the club before joining Greek Super League club PAOK Salonika in 2018. It would take another four years before Akpom burst into wider consciousness after scoring 29 goals for Middlesbrough in 2022-23.
His goalscoring exploits on Teeside attracted attention from far and wide and the 27-year-old swapped the Championship for Ajax in a transfer worth €12.3million.
Every Chuba Akpom goal from this season 🔥❤️pic.twitter.com/FCZ9TaCG8M
— TheTeessiders (@TheTeessiders) May 29, 2023
A cheat code on various iterations of Football Manager, desktop Wengers everywhere were thrilled when Arsenal picked up Sanogo on a free transfer from Auxerre in 2013.
But the striker was only 20 when he arrived at the Emirates and immediately looked too raw for first-team football.
Wenger tried to gently encourage him, calling one performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup “excellent”, but Sanogo was the wrong man to fire Arsenal towards a title challenge.
He was loaned out to Crystal Palace, Auxerre and Charlton before being released in 2017 and regarded as a byword for hopelessness by those of a more cruel disposition.
Nowadays, he’s turning out for Armenian outfit Urartu. It’s a far cry from his glorious career trajectory on Football Manager saves across the nation.