Ranking every midfielder Arsenal have signed since Cesc Fabregas left
Cesc Fabregas established himself as one of the best midfielders in the world during his time at Arsenal – so replacing him was always going to be a difficult job.
The Spaniard made over 300 appearances for the Gunners but returned to Barcelona in 2011 after a long-running transfer saga.
We’ve gone back through the 11 who have signed and played since Fabregas’ departure, to give a feel for what number 12 –Thomas Partey – has to live up to.
11. Kim Kallstrom
Kallstrom was signed on loan from Spartak Moscow in January 2014, even though a back injury was discovered during his medical.
The midfielder played just four times for Arsenal, although he notably came on in extra-time of the FA Cup against Wigan Athletic to score in the Gunners’ shoot-out victory.
“Although my contribution was small in the 120-year history of the club, it was a highlight for me,” the Swede said in 2016.
“The greatest fifteen minutes of my life, and it turns out I don’t remember what happened. Where was I in that deciding moment? Trance, shock, delirium, coma, nervous breakdown, call it whatever you want.”
10. Krystian Bielik
Bielik joined Arsenal in January 2015 but only ever made two senior appearances for the club, both in the League Cup.
After three separate loan spells away from the Emirates, he eventually joined Derby County on a permanent deal in 2019.
“I wasn’t frustrated,” Bielik told the Totally Football Show in 2019. “I was surprised that I didn’t really get a chance. You know, I thought I deserved to get a chance in the first team at Arsenal.
“I just felt that there was no future for me at Arsenal anymore. There is a new manager who’s thinking different than Arsene Wenger.”
The fact Derby agreed a club-record £9.5million deal to sign Bielik means he was still more useful than Kallstrom.
9. Mohamed Elneny
Elneny had a promising start to his Arsenal career after signing from FC Basel in January 2015, but the midfielder was deemed surplus to requirements by Unai Emery.
He spent the 2019-20 season on loan at Besiktas but was brought back in the first-team fold by Mikel Arteta ahead of 2020-21.
— Mohamed ELNeny (@ElNennY) October 2, 2020
8. Lucas Torreira
Torreira joined Arsenal from Sampdoria in 2018 and was a near-ever-present for the Gunners in his debut campaign, making 50 appearances in all competitions.
However, he had a difficult second season in England and joined Atletico Madrid on loan in 2020, with Thomas Partey moving in the opposite direction.
7. Mathieu Flamini
Flamini left Arsenal for AC Milan in 2008 but returned to north London five years later.
He won two FA Cup winners medals during his second spell with the Gunners and famously scored twice against Tottenham at White Hart Lane in 2015.
The midfielder then joined Crystal Palace on a free transfer in 2016 after being released by Arsenal.
6. Matteo Guendouzi
Guendouzi arrived at Arsenal in 2018 as a relative unknown, but the 20-year-old has since established himself as a regular in the first team under Unai Emery
But the midfielder fell foul of Mikel Arteta’s strict disciplinary standards and joined Hertha Berlin on loan in 2020.
5. Dani Ceballos
Ceballos joined Arsenal on a season-long loan from Real Madrid in 2019 as he looked for regular first-team opportunities.
The Spaniard emerged as one of Mikel Arteta’s most important players and helped the Gunners win the FA Cup in 2020 before returning for a second loan spell.
4. Granit Xhaka
It says a lot that Xhaka is so high on this list.
The 27-year-old has often been a much-maligned figure at Arsenal and was stripped of the captain’s armband after telling fans to “f*ck off”.
However, the midfielder has still made over 150 appearances for the club and has become a key player under Mikel Arteta.
“It is everything – his commitment, I like the way he is, the way he lives, his professional(ism), and the way he trains,” Arteta said.
“The way we want to play, there are not as many with his quality on the ball and the way he eliminates passes, and the range of his pass. I am delighted to have him.”
3. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Arsenal as a highly-rated prospect from Southampton in 2011 and went on to make 198 appearances for the Gunners, winning three FA Cups in the process.
After rejecting a new contract, the England international completed a £35million move to Liverpool in 2017.
2. Mikel Arteta
Arsenal struggled to find a replacement for Fabregas in 2011 and eventually signed Arteta from Everton on deadline day.
Areta was never going to fill the void left by Fabregas, but he still became a crucial player for the Gunners and spent two seasons as club captain.
Wonder what he’s up to these days…
1. Santi Cazorla
There was only ever going to be one winner, wasn’t there?
Cazorla scored 12 goals and contributed 14 assists during his debut season at Arsenal – and more importantly captured every fan’s heart as just a lovely, lovely man.
Unfortunately, he spent his final two years at the club on the sidelines due to injury problems, but he has since resurrected his career at Villarreal.
“When you are at a big club like Arsenal, sometimes you don’t realise what it means to be there until you are gone,” Cazorla told The Independent in 2019. “I never got to say a proper goodbye.
“It was the biggest team I played for in my career, and I miss everything about Arsenal.
“I don’t know what my legacy is there, you would have to ask the fans, but I want to say thank you to them all. I would like to play at the Emirates one last time before I retire.”