The 12 Arsenal players let go by Arteta and how they’ve fared since

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After inheriting an underperforming Arsenal team, Mikel Arteta has displayed his ruthless streak by selling first-team players. 

The Arsenal squad was in need of an overhaul when Arteta replaced Unai Emery in December 2019, and he hasn’t been afraid to get rid of some big names.

Alexandre Lacazette, Matteo Guendouzi and Konstantinos Mavropanos are the latest batch of players to depart the Emirates during the 40-year-old manager’s reign in charge of the Gunners and they follow in the footsteps of some pretty important players.

We’ve taken a look at the 12 first-teamers (so not including the likes of Dejan Iliev) to leave Arsenal on a permanent basis since Arteta took over to see how they have subsequently fared.

Emiliano Martinez

Martinez spent a decade at the Emirates Stadium but only got his first extended run in the Arsenal team towards the end of 2019-20, excelling in their FA Cup run.

After Bernd Leno returned from injury, the Argentina international was not given reassurances that he would remain their first-choice goalkeeper and joined Aston Villa in a £17million deal in 2020.  

“I told him [Mikel Arteta] I wanted to play week in, week out and he couldn’t guarantee who was going to start,” Martinez said in November 2020.

“Even before the Community Shield, he didn’t know who was going to play in goal. I just wanted to play first-team football and Arsenal could not guarantee me that.”

He was a revelation during his debut season at Aston Villa. Only Edouard Mendy and Ederson kept more clean sheets in the Premier League in 2020-21 and he continues to look dependable between the sticks under Steven Gerrard.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Mkhitaryan never played under Arteta and was allowed to join Roma on a permanent deal after a successful loan spell with the Serie A side.

The Armenia international revived his career following a difficult time in England, registering 22 goals and 15 assists in the Italian top-flight during his first season and a half at Roma.

He hasn’t been quite so prolific following the appointment of Jose Mourinho – five goals and nine assists in 44 appearances last term – but remains an important first-team regular, and ended the campaign by lifting the Europa Conference League Trophy

Matt Macey

Having made just two first-team appearances for Arsenal, Macey joined Scottish Premiership side Hibernian on a six-month contract in January 2021. 

“I’m grateful for every experience I had at Arsenal but I’m hungry to play first-team football,” Macey told Hibernian’s official website. “I know that won’t be handed to me here, so it’s up to me to show what I can do in training and take it from there.

“No-one has to tell me what a big club Hibernian is, in a competitive league. I’m looking forward to getting started.”

The goalkeeper made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Celtic and had to bide his time for opportunities before signing a two-year deal last summer and subsequently becoming their No.1. He made 44 appearances last term and has recently moved to Luton Town.

Sokratis 

After being deemed surplus to requirements by Arteta, Sokratis had his contract was cancelled by mutual consent and joined Olympiacos in January 2021. 

The defender returned to north London a short while later, as Arteta’s Gunners won out 3-2 on aggregate in a Europa League Round of 32 clash against the Greek champions, winning 3-1 in Athens before a 1-0 defeat on home soil. 

“It is something special because until a month ago I was with them,” Sokratis said at the time. “I think it will be a difficult game. Arsenal are a very big team.

“We have to be focused during both games to repeat last year. There are no big differences because he is the same coach. More or less it is the same team with two or three additions. It is a team with great quality, but there are also areas we can hit to harm them.”

Last season he was a regular as Olympiacos retained their Greek Super League crown.

Mesut Ozil

Despite being a big part of Arteta’s initial plans at Arsenal, Ozil eventually fell out of favour and was exiled from the Premier League and Europa League squads.

The 32-year-old had his contract cancelled by the Gunners in January 2021, allowing him to move on a free transfer to Turkish side Fenerbahce. 

He joined a Fener side that was flying high at the top of Super Lig but since endured a miserable downturn in the second half of the 2020-21 season. Last term they finished a distant runner-up to champions Trabzonspor, and having disappointed, terminated his contract by mutual consent. He’s since joined Istanbul Basaksehir on a one-year deal.

Shkodran Mustafi

Mustafi was allowed to join Schalke on a free transfer in February 2021.

The writing was already on the wall for the Gelsenkirchen-based outfit at that point, and sure enough they suffered relegation at the end of the campaign.

The former Germany international subsequently joined Levante, who were relegated last season after a dismal 19th-place finish in La Liga. Ouch.

Willian

The first player signed by Arteta that’s left the club, things just didn’t work out at all for the Brazilian winger at the Emirates.

Willian reportedly waved goodbye to a lucrative salary in order to bring a premature end to an unhappy marriage.

“I was not happy, that’s why I didn’t perform. I don’t want to go into the details, but I wasn’t happy,” he recently reminisced in an interview on Rio Ferdinand’s Five YouTube channel.

“So, when I arrived there I was happy, from the beginning I was motivated, I wanted to do well, new club, new mates, new projects.

“After three months, I told my agent, ‘Please, I want to go’. I don’t want to speak bad about the club because it is a big club, has a big history in football, big players played there before it’s a big club – but it didn’t work, it was of course the most difficult time of my career.”

He’s yet to recapture his best Chelsea form back home in Brazil, with one goal in 41 appearances for Corinthians.

David Luiz

Like Willian, David Luiz was allowed to leave on a free transfer and returned home to Brazil.

The 34-year-old is now turning out for Flamengo, and started in a backline alongside fellow South American veterans Felipe Luis and Mauricio Isla in the 2021 Copa Libertadores final – a 2-1 defeat to Palmeiras.

He also recently did this…

David Luiz during Flamengo's Brasileirao game agaisnt Sao Paulo at the Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 22 April 2022.

READ: David Luiz produced the miss of the year… & we love him even more now

Joe Willock

It made sense for Newcastle United to splash out £25million on Joe Willock, given he produced the best form of his career during his half-season loan last term, scoring eight goals in 14 Premier League appearances for Steve Bruce’s Magpies.

But the Gunners’ decision to cash in on a fringe player is looking like a sensible one. Willock is yet to recapture that form at St. James’, only scoring two goals and failing to notch an assist in the entirety of the 2021-22 campaign.

Manchester United probably wish they’d done the same thing with Jesse Lingard last summer.

 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Unlike Ozil, who continued on his downward trajectory after arriving at Fenerbahce, Aubameyang’s move to Barcelona in January seemed to give the striker a new lease of life.

His form dipped significantly during his latter months at the Emirates, but having a point to prove at the Nou Camp has seen him thrive, with 13 goals in 23 appearances for Xavi’s Barcelona – an essential part of them climbing up the table in the second half of the season and ultimately ending up second.

It’ll be fascinating to see how he fares amid competition from Robert Lewandowski going forward.

Calum Chambers

After seven-and-a-half years on Arsenal’s books, most of it on the periphery or out on loan, Chambers eventually departed the club in search of more first-team football in January 2022.

“It was a chance to really kick on for myself in my career,” he said at the time.

“That was one of the main reasons why Villa was so perfect for me. That was one of the decisions to come here.”

Sure enough, he’s had more regular runouts under Steven Gerrard, having played 11 times in the latter half of the campaign for Villa, and scoring an absolute peach of a strike against Leeds.

Sead Kolasinac

Since an unhappy return on loan to relegation-bound Schalke, ‘The Tank’ chose his next destination a little more carefully.

The imposing Bosnian defender arrived at Marseille in January and made 14 appearances in the latter half of the campaign to help guide Jorge Sampaoli’s all-action outfit to Champions League qualification.


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