The 22 players to play just one game for Arsenal this century: Bennacer, Stokes…

Arsenal have regularly given young players a chance in the first team, be it in the league or one of the many cups, but for every success story there’s a player who was ‘one and done’.

The likes of Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fabregas were once among the group with just one senior game to their name, but they quickly became regular parts of the squad for whom that debut was a distant memory.

Others, though, were not as fortunate. Here’s what happened to the 22 men whose Gunners career ended almost as quickly as it began.

Chuks Aneke

After impressing at youth level and featuring in pre-season games, Aneke was expected to play a fair bit more than the single League Cup minute he earned in 2011, replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a victory over Shrewsbury.

The London-born forward, who joined Arsenal while he was still in primary school, left the Gunners for Zulte-Waregem in Belgium before returning to England with a fruitful spell at MK Dons. He joined Charlton in the summer of 2019, scoring on his debut for the Championship club.

Kyle Bartley

Bartley made his England Under-17 debut while at Arsenal but couldn’t manage a proper breakthrough.

After helping the Gunners to the 2009 FA Youth Cup as captain, the centre-back played 90 minutes alongside Mikael Silvestre in a Champions League group stage defeat to Olympiacos later that year.

He’d eventually play Premier League football for Swansea, and is on the verge of making another return with West Brom.

Ismael Bennacer

Signed from hometown club Arles as a teenager, Bennacer has been forced to do things the hard way.

His only Gunners game came in the 2015-16 League Cup, when an under-strength team was humbled by Sheffield Wednesday, but his introduction as a first-half sub for first-half sub Theo Walcott was hardly the only factor in the loss.

Arsenal sold the French winger to Empoli in 2017 and, after impressing for the Italian club, he made the switch to AC Milan two years later.

Daniel Boateng

Boateng’s first-team breakthrough came at a time when things weren’t going brilliantly for Arsenal, with a bit of necessary squad-building after an 8-2 defeat to Manchester United putting more bodies in the way of youngsters.

The Englishman’s sole game came in the League Cup against Bolton, when he replaced Thomas Vermaelen for the final few minutes, but he left in 2014 without another minute to his name.

Since then, he’s travelled across Europe, playing in Sweden, Scotland and Poland, and most recently found himself in Romania’s second tier with Aerostar Bacau.

READ: The Londoner who played for Arsenal then couldn’t face the lower leagues

Lee Canoville

The cousin of former Chelsea man Paul Canoville was one of Arsenal’s first debutants of the 21st century, playing against Ipswich in November 2000.

He replaced fellow academy man Rhys Weston that day but left for Torquay at the end of the 2000-01 season.

Canoville founded the charity Brighter Futures Through Sport, which uses sport and mentoring to help children in the UK.

Thomas Cruise

Cruise was a team-mate of Bartley in that Olympiacos game, playing 90 minutes at left-back (Kerrea Gilbert was on the right).

He eventually gave up football altogether, beginning a career in acting accounting, and we’re happy for him being able to find a new path.

Rui Fonte

The younger brother of Portugal centre-back Jose, Rui Fonte played six minutes for Arsenal in a 3-0 League Cup win over Wigan in 2008. The other subs that day were Henri Lansbury and Amaury Bischoff.

After a loan spell at Crystal Palace, he moved back home to join Sporting and has since floated around western Europe.

The winger briefly returned to English football with Fulham, helping them earn promotion in 2017-18, but has spent this season turning out for Braga in the Europa League.

Julian Gray

London-born Gray made his one appearance right at the start of the decade, replacing Kanu in a league defeat at Newcastle in May 2000.

The winger will be familiar to plenty of Championship fans, though, especially those of Crystal Palace, for whom he played more than 100 games in the second tier.

He eventually got another crack at the Premier League with Birmingham City, even playing against Arsenal with the Blues, but quit football in the mid-2010s

Conor Henderson

Henderson featured for Arsenal against Leyton Orient in 2011, playing 90 minutes in the cup tie as part of a midfield which also included Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky and Denilson.

It was the result of years of hard work in the academy for the Irish Under-21 international, who joined Arsenal before starting secondary school, but after a difficult time in the lower leagues he has decided to try his luck overseas.

“I just wish I’d made the move sooner. It’s early days, but I’m enjoying my football more than I have been over the last few years,” Henderson said of his travels, and he’s now in his second spell with Bulgarian club Pirin after a few months with Dunirea in Romania in between.

READ: The story of the player not equipped for the EFL despite 14 years at Arsenal

Carlin Itonga

A 4-0 League Cup win over Man Utd in 2001 was a momentous day for Congolese youngster Itonga, who got a four-minute debut as a substitute for Gilles Grimandi.

The teenager stayed at Arsenal into his 20s, but after leaving Highbury he immediately dropped into non-league.

Not much is known about the Youth Cup-winning forward, who was last spotted at Fisher Athletic more than a decade ago.

Glen Kamara

Finnish teenager Kamara got his debut in the same Sheffield Wednesday defeat as Bennacer, playing the first hour before making way for Krystian Bielik.

After a couple of loan spells, he moved north of the border, joining Dundee in 2017 and impressing enough to earn a move to Rangers in January 2019.

The midfielder has featured for Steven Gerrard’s side in the Europa League this season and will be confident of playing for his country at Euro 2020.

Brian McGovern

A team-mate of Gray in that defeat to Newcastle in 2000, Irish defender McGovern was one of a handful of academy players to play under Arsene Wenger in the early part of the Frenchman’s tenure.

He replaced another youngster, Rhys Weston, that day. However, a couple of months later he was on his way to Norwich, first on loan and then permanently.

He recently gave a good interview to The 42, looking back on his time in England.

Stefan O’Connor

O’Connor was just 17 when he made his Arsenal debut at Galatasaray in 2014, taking the place of Mathieu Debuchy for the final 13 minutes of a 4-1 win.

Still just 22, the defender joined Newcastle after leaving north London in 2017 but failed to make the breakthrough at St James’ Park.

He was released by the Magpies over the summer. However, after recovering from injury, he rejoined the club in September.

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Kristoffer Olsson

Olsson’s one Arsenal game came in the 2013-14 League Cup, when he replaced Isaac Hayden at West Brom, and the Swede scored his penalty in a shoot-out win for the Gunners.

He was sent out on loan to FC Mitdjylland the following season, eventually earning a permanent move to the Danish side, and broke into Sweden’s senior side in 2017.

Olsson spent two years back home with AIK but moved to Krasnodar over the summer and has played for the Russian side in this season’s Champions League qualifiers and Europa League group stage.

Michal Papadopulos

Papadopulos didn’t have much chance of breaking into the Gunners side after joining on loan during the Invincibles season.

The Czech striker played seven minutes in the League Cup, replacing Jeremie Aliadiere in a win over Wolves, before returning to parent club Banik Ostrava at the end of the 2003-04 season.

He’s still playing and scoring, opening his account for Polish side Korona Kielce in July.

Julio Pleguezuelo

Pleguezuelo donned the No.53 first made famous by Wojciech Szczesny, but the Spaniard was no keeper.

The former Mallorca defender was signed by Arsene Wenger but made his debut under Unai Emery during a League Cup win over Blackpool, playing the full 90 alongside Shkodran Mustafi at centre-back.

Pleguezuelo didn’t add to that game, though, and moved on to FC Twente in the Eredivisie over the summer.

Rohan Ricketts

Local lad Ricketts is one of only a handful of players to represent both Arsenal and Spurs, but his time on the pitch for the Gunners was brief.

The midfielder made his debut in the same game as Itonga, replacing Jermaine Pennant late on, but moved to White Hart Lane the following summer.

Now 37, he has a laundry list of countries – let alone clubs – on his footballing CV.

Paul Rodgers

English defender Rodgers was one of those whose only Arsenal game was a start – specifically, 45 minutes in a defeat to Burnley in 2008.

A loan move to Northampton in the second half of that season turned into a permanent summer switch, but by 2011 he was down in non-league.

Most recently, the full-back was spotted playing for Harlow Town in 2018.

Frank Simek

A promising American talent, Simek started that 2003 win over Wolves which saw Papadopulos introduced as a sub.

After leaving in 2005, he spent most of his career with Sheffield Wednesday and Carlisle and played five times for his country.

He reportedly spent some time in Vietnam after leaving English football, but most of the defender’s post-2013 career is a mystery.

Olafur Ingi Skulason

Icelander Skulason played in the Wolves game as well, replacing Justin Hoyte in the second half.

He joined Brentford after leaving Arsenal in 2005, but was soon out of the UK altogether, playing in Sweden, Belgium and Turkey before moving back to Iceland in 2019.

The midfielder played more than 30 times for his country but wasn’t in the squad for Euro 2016 when Iceland beat England.

John Spicer

Like Olsson, Spicer scored a penalty shoot-out goal on his debut, in his case against Rotherham in 2003.

After leaving at the end of the 2003-04 season, he knocked around the lower leagues for a decade.

He was last spotted at Southend during the 2012-13 season.

Anthony Stokes

Irish striker Stokes carved out a solid career for himself, even though he didn’t make the grade at Arsenal.

He got two minutes in a Gunners shirt, replacing Arturo Lupoli in a 2005-06 League Cup win at Sunderland and later made a top-flight debut with the Black Cats after a seven-figure move.

After spending the bulk of his best years with Celtic, Stokes has become a bit of a nomad. After stints in Greece and Turkey, he’s now preparing to make his debut for Iranian side Persepolis.

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