The 16 Arsenal academy grads playing elsewhere in major leagues in 2020-21

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Arsenal were renowned for developing young players during Arsene Wenger’s reign and Mikel Arteta has already shown he is eager to uphold that tradition.

While the likes of Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah have established themselves at the Emirates, some players have had to look elsewhere for first-team opportunities.

We’ve taken a look at their 16 academy graduates that are currently playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues – the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga.

Alex Iwobi

Iwobi made his Arsenal debut in 2015, scoring 15 goals in 149 games for the first team, but he never truly nailed down a starting berth at the Emirates.

The Nigeria international fell further down the pecking order following Nicolas Pepe’s arrival in 2019 and joined Everton in a £34million deal.

Eberechi Eze

Eze was first picked up by Arsenal as an eight-year-old but was released five years later after being deemed ‘too small’ by the club.

“That was the worst one,” Eze told the Independent in 2020. “I remember crying in my room for a solid week, my mum telling me that it’s going to be OK but not being able to get over it.”

After unsuccessful spells with Fulham, Reading and Millwall, he starred for QPR and completed a £17million move to Crystal Palace in 2020.

Isaac Hayden

Hayden made just two first-team appearances for Arsenal and had a loan spell at Hull before joining Newcastle permanently in 2016.

The midfielder helped the Magpies win promotion back to the Premier League in his debut season and has stayed in the North East ever since.

READ: The 19 fringe players Arsenal have sold for a combined £110m since 2016

Dwight Gayle

After leaving Arsenal as a teenager, Gayle spent a few years in non-league before finally making his Premier League debut with Crystal Palace in 2013.

He moved to Newcastle in 2016 and has scored 10 goals in his first 55 Premier League appearances for the Magpies.

Luke Ayling

Having failed to make a first-team appearance for the Gunners, Ayling was released at the end of the 2009-10 season.

The full-back worked his way back up through the Football League pyramid before securing promotion to the Premier League with Leeds United in 2019-20.

READ: Alternative highlights of 19-20: Luke Ayling sprinting, head down, to glory

Kyle Bartley

Despite captaining Arsenal’s reserve team, Bartley made just one appearance for their senior squad before being sold to Swansea City in 2012.

After a couple of loan spells away from South Wales, he joined West Brom in the summer of 2018 and helped the Baggies secure promotion to the Premier League in 2019-20.

READ: Where are they now? Arsenal’s youngest ever Champions League side

Kieran Gibbs

Gibbs made over 200 appearances for Arsenal, but the arrivals of Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac eventually saw the left-back struggle for first-team opportunities.

He suffered relegation to the Championship in his debut season with West Brom but won promotion back to the top-flight in 2019-20.

Henri Lansbury

Once viewed as the next big thing, Lansbury failed to live up to expectations at Arsenal, making just eight appearances for the first team.

The midfielder spent eight years in the Championship before winning promotion to the top flight with Aston Villa in 2018-19, albeit only making 10 league appearances last term.

READ: How TWO Arsenal outfielders ended up in goal on loan at West Ham

Nathan Tella

Realised by Arsenal in 2017, Tella joined Southampton and made his Premier League debut in June 2020.

Ian Poveda

Poveda left Chelsea and spent two years in Arsenal’s academy before spells at Barcelona, Brentford and Manchester City.

The winger made just one first-team appearance under Pep Guardiola and joined Leeds on a permanent deal in January 2020.

Joao Virginia

After impressing with the Arsenal youth teams, Virginia joined Everton in 2018 but is yet to make his Premier League debut for the Toffees.

Francis Coquelin

An injury crisis saw Coquelin drafted into the first team in 2014 and the midfielder looked set to fill the void left by Gilberto Silva‘s departure in 2008.

But he failed to hold down a place in the starting line-up and spent two-and-a-half years at Valencia before joining Villarreal in 2020.

READ: The 11 players who won a trophy after leaving Arsenal in the last five years

Yunus Musah

Musah was considered one of the standout prospects at Arsenal but left for Valencia in 2019, where he thought he had a clearer pathway to the first team.

Aged just 17 years and 289 days, he made his senior debut in September 2020, becoming the first Englishman to ever play for Valencia.

Stephy Mavididi

After loan spells at Preston and Charlon, Mavididi made headlines by joining Juventus in 2018 but made just one appearance for the Serie A side.

He joined Ligue 1 side Montpellier on a permanent deal in 2020 and still has hopes of one day returning to England.

“Ultimately my dream is to play in the Premier League, I’m working towards coming back to England,” he told football.London in April, adding: “Obviously it would be a dream to play for Arsenal again but right now I wouldn’t say I’m ready to play in a team like theirs.”

Stephy-Mavididi-Juventus

READ: Stephy Mavididi: Everything you need to know about Juve’s ex-Arsenal man

Wojciech Szczesny

Szczesny made over 150 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions but eventually fell out of favour following a series of high-profile mistakes.

The goalkeeper has rebuilt his reputation since joining Juventus in 2017, replacing Gianluigi Buffon as the club’s No.1 and winning three consecutive Serie A titles.

Serge Gnabry

Gnabry made just 18 appearances for Arsenal and was sold to Werder Bremen in 2016 after an unsuccessful loan spell at West Brom.

“[Arsenal] had so many wingers at the time – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, [Tomas] Rosicky, Theo [Walcott], [Santi] Cazorla, Alexis [Sanchez], Mesut Ozil – so I just had to go,” Gnabry told the Athletic in 2019.

“I was still confident I could’ve got in the team but I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to be fourth or fifth choice any longer.

“It was the hardest decision I had to make in football, leaving a club like Arsenal – the fans, the players – but to keep playing I had to take a step back and it was the right decision.”

The 25-year-old moved to Bayern Munich in 2017 and has since developed into one of the best wingers in the world, helping the Bundesliga side win the treble in 2019-20.


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