The five kids handed Arsenal debuts by Unai Emery & how they’ve fared since

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While Unai Emery failed to live up to expectations during his time as Arsenal boss, he did give first-team opportunities to some talented academy graduates. 

Emery had the unenviable task of replacing Arsene Wenger at the Emirates in 2018 and was sacked after less than 18 months in charge.

We’ve looked at the five academy players he handed debuts to, to see how their respective careers have developed since.

Emile Smith Rowe

Smith Rowe was handed his first-team debut early in Emery’s reign, coming off the bench against Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League in September 2018.

The midfielder scored on his full debut against Qarabag and followed that up with goals in wins over Blackpool and Vorskla Poltava before spending the second half of 2018-19 on loan at RB Leipzig.

After making two Premier League appearances under Freddie Ljungberg in December 2019, he joined Huddersfield on loan and registered two goals and three assists in 19 appearances.

“Emile is just a really lovely player, isn’t he?” Huddersfield manager Danny Cowley said after their 2-1 win against Bristol City in February 2020.

“He has that ability to find space; he could find space in a telephone box; he speeds the play up for you and draws and commits and I think it would have been a brilliant performance if he had scored.

“I am always going to be demanding of him because, to me, he is a Premier League player so I have to treat him like that and demand Premier League standards from him – in training and in games, day in and day out.”

The 20-year-old has made five appearances for the Gunners in 2020-21 at the time of writing and there are high hopes he could fill their creative void.

READ: Emile Smith Rowe shows Arsenal there is a fourth direction: forwards

Julio Pleguezuelo 

Pleguezuelo joined Arsenal from Barcelona just after he had turned 16, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas and Hector Bellerin.

He made his first, and last, appearance for the Gunners against Blackpool in the League Cup in October 2018 and was released a few months later.

The 23-year-old joined Eredivisie side FC Twente on a free transfer in 2019 and has established himself as a first-team regular.

Charlie Gilmour

Gilmour joined Arsenal’s academy at the age of six and made the first of two first-team appearances against Vorskla Poltava in November 2018.

After being released by the Gunners in 2019, he joined Norwich City before being immediately sent on loan to Dutch outfit Telstar, where he has made 24 appearances in the second tier.

The Scottish midfielder agreed to mutually end his two-year contract with the Canaries in 2020 and is currently without a club.

“You sort of know that you’re not going to get a chance or that you’re not in a club’s plans, so you just need to be honest with yourself and say this isn’t going to be the club for me to have a career,” Gilmour told The Athletic in November 2020.

“It’s recognising it and doing something about it, because a lot of people can just be in their comfort zone. I could’ve just stayed at Norwich for the last year of my contract, had nice facilities, good coaching. But I just want to start my career now.”

Bukayo Saka 

We love him. We love him. We love him. We love him.

READ: Bukayo Saka is the playground footballer Arsenal and the PL needs

Zech Medley 

Having joined Arsenal’s academy from Chelsea in 2016, Medley was handed his first-team debut against Vorskla Poltava in November 2018.

The centre-back has only made another two appearances for the club and is spending the 2020-21 season on loan at League One side Gillingham.


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