Where are they now? 9 Arsenal wonderkids you’ve definitely forgotten about…

Arsenal boast one of the best youth academies in Europe, but not all of their rising talents manage to make it through the ranks and into the first team.

For every Jack Wilshere and Bukayo Saka there is an upcoming youngster who doesn’t quite make the cut. It only takes one serious injury or a dodgy loan spell to completely change a youngster’s trajectory.

There have been numerous examples of teenagers that have garnered plenty of hype that they couldn’t possibly live up to. Here are nine Arsenal wonderkids that were predicted to make it at the very highest but have since been forgotten.

Thomas Cruise

Despite having a name for the big screen, Cruise never made it to the top. His solitary appearance for the Gunners came back in 2009 in a Champions League clash with Olympiakos.

After a stint with Torquay United, he hung up his boots entirely in 2015 to become an accountant. It’s fair to say that he didn’t follow the typical career trajectory of an Arsenal youth prospect.

Ignasi Miquel

Born in Barcelona, the Spanish youngster spent five years at La Masia and was picked up by Arsenal in 2008. Miquel joined the Gunners aged 16 and was already grabbing headlines from his impressive showings for Spain’s youth sides.

He looked like a star in the making. The youngster was handed his debut by Arsene Wenger in 2011 and he went on to make 14 first-team appearances for the Gunners.

However, after struggling to impress with Leicester City in the Championship, Arsenal decided to let him go in 2014. He has since been bouncing around the top two divisions in Spain and now plays for Granada in the Segunda Division.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas

Emmanuel-Thomas otherwise known as JET was hot property in North London back in the mid-2000s. He was even captaining the Under-18s as a 16-year-old.

Since leaving Arsenal, the forward has crafted a journeyman career for himself. Having played for 13 different clubs, he has never spent more than two years in one place.

“I have moved about in my career. I was at Arsenal and had various loan moves when I was younger,” Emmanuel-Thomas told Daily Cannon.

“I played with some big players during my youth days at Arsenal. It was great to be involved with and I still stay in contact with a lot of them.”

These days you can find him playing for Jamshedpur in the Indian Super League, but he’ll probably be on the move again soon enough.

Craig Eastmond

Part of Arsenal’s 2008-09 FA Youth Cup winners squad, Eastmond joined Arsenal aged 11 and went on to make 10 first-team appearances. After a series of loan spells, Arsenal let him go in 2013 and he has been playing in the lower leagues since.

Now captaining League Two outfit Sutton United, Eastmond has made over 400 appearances in his career so far.

Arsenal's (L-R) Jack Wilshere, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Sanchez Watt with the FA Youth Cup during the FA Youth Cup Final First Leg against Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium, London, 26 May 2009

READ: Where are they now? Arsenal’s 2008-09 FA Youth Cup winners

Jon Toral

Another youth prospect who spent time at La Masia, Arsenal signed Toral for £300,000 back in 2011. The youngster then spent the next three seasons out on loan and never made a senior appearance for Arsenal in the end.

Injuries have plagued the Spanish playmaker for the majority of his career and after stints with Hull City and Birmingham in the Championship, he is now turning out for OFI Crete in Greece.

Krystian Bielik

Arsenal splashed out £2.4million on a teenage Bielik back in 2015. The Polish international had a huge future at the time and was especially useful as he could play in defence or midfield.

He was an integral part of Charlton Athletic’s 2018-19 promotion-winning campaign from League One while on loan and Arsenal decided to cash in on him while his value was high.

In 2019, Derby County spent around £8million to take him from Arsenal. While he is still a tidy footballer, he’s had some rotten luck with injuries.

The 25-year-old suffered ACL injuries in consecutive seasons and hasn’t quite been the same since. He has spent this season on loan with Birmingham in the Championship.

Julio Pleguezuelo

After stints with Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at youth level, Pleguezuelo joined Arsenal as a fresh-faced 16-year-old in 2013. He quickly rose through the ranks and captained Arsenal’s Under-21s to the Premier League 2 play-off final in 2016.

Unai Emery handed him his only first-team appearance in 2018–19, before he was ultimately let go at the end of the season. These days you can catch him in the Eredivisie playing for FC Twente.

Gilles Sunu

Things never quite took off for Sunu in North London despite a promising start. Arsenal spent as much as £1million to snap up the French youngster in 2007, but he only managed two senior appearances.

After a series of loan spells, he was let go in 2011 and has predominately been playing in France since. After some solid years with Lorient and Angers, he now plays for Chateauroux in the French third division.

Rhys Murphy

Murphy was absolutely prolific for Arsenal’s academy as he looked a cut above the other players in his age group. The next stage of his development saw him go out on loan to League One clubs Brentford and Preston, but he struggled to make the same impact.

The Gunners released him in 2012 and he built his career back up with SC Telstar in the Netherlands before returning to England in 2013.

Murphy has since forged a solid reputation for himself in the lower leagues and has scored over 100 professional goals in England. These days you’ll find him at Southend United in the National League.

READ MORE: The 11 Arsenal youth teamers that left in 2022 & how they’re faring

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