Nine players who did nothing at Arsenal but shone after leaving

Quick Reads

Alexander Hleb still regrets leaving Arsenal, but a number of players have gone on to prove the Gunners wrong after leaving the club.

Given Arsenal’s preference over the years to develop young talent, it should come as no surprise that a few went on to impress at different outfits.

We’ve taken a closer look at nine players who hardly set the world alight at Arsenal before proving their quality elsewhere.

Serge Gnabry

The writing was probably on the wall for Gnabry in England when he was loaned to West Brom and afforded all of 12 Premier League minutes in 2015-16.

Fast forward four years and he is a regular for both Bayern Munich and Germany, for who he has scored nine time in 10 caps.

“Serge Gnabry has become a pivotal player for us,” Germany boss Joachim Low told the DFB website after his latest goal in a 2-0 victory at Northern Ireland.

Not bad for a player sold to Hoffenheim for £5million.

Ismael Bennacer

Arsenal fans can be excused for not recognising Bennacer’s name given the midfielder made one appearance for the club in a 3-0 League Cup defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

The Gunners probably didn’t lose any sleep when the Algeria international, who represented France at youth level, joined Serie B outfit Empoli in 2017.

Yet Bennacer help Empoli to promotion and impressed enough in Serie A despite their relegation to earn a  €16million move to AC Milan this summer.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Van Bronckhorst certainly didn’t embarrass himself at Arsenal, but 22 Premier League starts over two years hardly screams ‘roaring success’ either.

The left-back left north London for Barcelona in 2003, going on to win two La Liga titles and the Champions League, famously beating Arsenal in the 2006 final.

He also did this in a World Cup semi-final at the age of 35.

Carlos Vela

Vela may not have reached the heights his potential suggested, but the striker has still shown his undoubted quality since leaving Arsenal, most notably at Real Sociedad, where he struck up a formidable partnership with Antoine Griezmann.

In 2013-14, only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alexis Sanchez better the 15 goals and 12 assists Vela registered, yet it was the player himself that was reluctant to make the next step in his career.

“He had opportunities to leave but he never wanted to go and La Real never wanted to sell him,” Yoan Cuezva of Radio Marca toldSky Sports.

Now 30, the Mexico international seems more than happy taking the piss in MLS, scoring 27 goals and providing 10 assists in 26 appearances for LAFC this season.

Andy Cole

We’ve tried to keep this to the Premier League era, meaning Cole just about makes the cut as he was sold by Arsenal in the summer of 1992, joining second tier Bristol City for £500,000 as a 20-year-old.

That deal made the striker Bristol City’s record signing. A year later Newcastle broke their transfer record to land Cole, and he became the British record signing when joining Manchester United in 1995.

“He was brilliant,” Paul Merson told the Quickly Kevin, Will He Score? podcast when asked about Cole at Arsenal. “He wanted to be in the team straight away. He didn’t play in the team too often. It was out of him and Kevin Campbell.

“It was out of them two and George (Graham) chose Kevin, who still did brilliantly at Arsenal. He let Andy go. He went to Bristol City, where he ripped it up; then Newcastle, ripped it up; then Man Utd, ripped it up.”

READ: Paul Merson on George Graham at Arsenal, Andy Cole & disobeying the FBI

Jeff Reine-Adelaide

After making eight appearances for Arsenal, none of which came in the Premier League, Gunners supporters probably weren’t ready to get the pitchforks out following the sale of Reine-Adelaide to Angers in the summer of 2018.

Following his first full season in Ligue 1, the 21-year-old was signed by Lyon this summer for €25million. Don’t worry, it completely passed us by too.

Donyell Malen

The latest young prospect to shine for Holland, Malen spent two years in Arsenal’s academy after joining from Ajax and was a prolific goalscorer for the Gunners’ youth sides.

Yet he was sold to PSV before graduating to the first team in north London, and Arsenal may already be ruing the decision.

Despite making just six Eredivisie starts, plus 25 substitute appearances, in his first full season at that level, Malen ended the campaign with 10 goals and four assists, and recently came off the bench to score on his Holland debut against Germany.

READ: The ex-Arsenal prospect wanted by Man Utd & Chelsea shining for Holland

Lassana Diarra

Diarra’s early years in England were fairly strange. Deemed good enough to be signed by both Chelsea and Arsenal, but only good enough to make 20 Premier League appearances across two and a half seasons.

A £5.5million move to Portsmouth saw the midfielder blossom at Fratton Park, winning the FA Cup, before joining Real Madrid for €20million.

He made over 100 appearances at the Bernabeu, winning La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

Oguzhan Ozyakup

While Ozyakup made just two first-team appearances for Arsenal, both of which came in the League Cup, the midfielder was able to witness two famous games as an unused substitute: the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford and valiant 3-0 victory over AC Milan in an attempt to overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit in the Champions League knockout stages.

The Turkey international left the Emirates in 2012 and has since established himself as a mainstay for both Besiktas and Turkey.

Now 26, Ozyakup has regularly been linked with a move back to England, with Manchester United and Tottenham among the notable names he has reportedly attracted interest from.


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