Where are they now? Arsenal’s XI from Mesut Ozil’s debut v Sunderland
Ozil made a good first impression, setting up Olivier Giroud for the early opener as the Gunners beat Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland 3-1 at the Stadium of Light before a second-half brace from Aaron Ramsey sealed the three points.
The midfielder will be the last of Arsenal’s XI to leave the club, with the end in sight as Fenerbahce reportedly close in on his signature. We’ve taken a look at where they all are now.
The Poland international was a little erratic during his early years at Arsenal and was eventually shown the door as proven winner Petr Cech arrived from Chelsea.
With hindsight, you have to question the decision to allow Szczesny to leave on a permanent deal, as he had rebuilt his reputation during his two years on loan at Roma.
Szczesny is now a regular title-winner with Juventus and returning club legend Gianluigi Buffon has to settle with playing second fiddle.
A Gunners fan since childhood, the right-back earned a dream move from Charlton to the Emirates in 2011 but could never quite stake a claim to be a regular starter.
After a series of loan spells away from the club, he eventually left Arsenal in 2019 and signed for Championship side Nottingham Forest.
The right-back hasn’t played since 2019, last seen at MLS outfit Montreal Impact after spells with Benevento and Manchester City. He hasn’t ruled out returning to the pitch, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely.
“To me, personally, if they wanted me to stay I would have stayed,” Sagna told Goal in March 2020 when reflecting on his Arsenal exit. “But I didn’t feel like they did everything to make me stay.
“I was not expecting them to run around after me, but I at least expected them to show me some love and make me feel like they wanted me to stay one year before the end of the same contract I had kept for six years without asking for one penny more.”
A loyal club servant for nearly a decade, Koscielny won three FA Cup titles with Arsenal.
The centre-back left under a cloud after forcing a move back to France in the summer of 2019 and is now into his second season at Bordeaux.
Lambeth-born academy graduate Gibbs left Arsenal after 10 seasons in and around the first team in 2017, having made well over 200 appearances.
He signed for West Brom and has been at the Hawthorns ever since, with the Boing Boing Baggies living up to their nickname during that time. A second relegation in four years looks on the cards.
Wilshere’s final match for his boyhood club was also Arsene Wenger’s – a 5-0 win over Burnley. Released soon after, he left Arsenal after 17 years and signed a two-year deal with West Ham.
After being hampered by injury problems, he was once again released at the end of 2019-20 and remains a free agent. The 29-year-old is currently training with Bournemouth, where he spent the 2016-17 campaign out on loan.
Two second-half goals from Ramsey helped Arsenal on their way to their 3-1 victory at the Stadium of Light that day, and he continued to be an important player in the coming years – not least in their FA Cup triumphs of 2014, 2015 and 2017.
He eventually saw out his contract and left on a free transfer in 2019, with Juventus taking advantage as they so often do.
The Wales international was only a fringe player under Maurizio Sarri as the club won a ninth-straight Scudetto in 2019-20 but is playing much more of a prominent role under Andrea Pirlo.
You won’t find a better story than Flamini in any ‘where are they now?’ list anywhere. Calling time on his second Arsenal stint in 2016, he subsequently finished up his playing career with spells at Crystal Palace and Getafe.
But well before his retirement as a player, he co-founded geo-energy company GF Biochemicals, which takes his focus today. His business ventures have proved incredibly lucrative, although he’s played down reports claiming he’s now a multi-billionaire.
A keen environmentalist, he also launched a sustainable, vegan wellbeing personal care brand along with Ozil in 2018.
“Growing up by the sea, I could see from a very early age the impact of plastics in the water, on the beach,” he told the Guardian in August 2020.
“It’s horrendous and makes you realise that, if we don’t change something, the place where we live won’t be liveable any more. I was very aware of everything, very curious.
“I always told myself, ‘If I do something else later on outside football, I want it to be around sustainability.’”
— Mathieu flamini (@mathieuflamini) December 27, 2020
Theo Walcott (Nacho Monreal, 89)
Walcott is now back where it all began, having first left Southampton for Arsenal at the age of 16 back in 2006.
He notched 108 goals in 397 appearances for the Gunners but still celebrated when scoring for Saints at the Emirates in December 2020.
“Scoring a goal, no matter who you play, is one of the best feelings and I scored many goals here,” he said post-match. “But playing for Southampton is a massive thing for me so to score a goal, why not? Why wouldn’t I celebrate?”
You know what? Fair play.
Monreal made over 250 appearances and became a fan favourite during his six-and-a-half-year spell in north London but decided to return to his native Spain with Real Sociedad in 2019.
Olivier Giroud (Chuba Akpom, 90)
The indefatigable Giroud is continuing to plug away, proving himself worthy of starts at Chelsea amid competition from Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner.
The 34-year-old striker recently edged ahead of Michel Platini in France’s all-time top scorers list and is now only seven away from equalling Thierry Henry’s record for Les Bleus.
Like Ozil, Akpom was also making his debut against Sunderland but only made another 11 appearances for the club and now plays for Middlesbrough.
Mesut Ozil (Thomas Vermaelen, 80)
Into the final few months of his lucrative Arsenal contract, Ozil’s days at the Emirates are numbered. Left out of their Premier League squad for 2020-21, it’s been a little sad to see him turn into a fan tweeting his support from the outside.
It’s not the ending he deserved, with some stunning highlights from his time with the club.
After making just 34 La Liga appearances during his five years at Barcelona, Vermaelen joined Japanese side Vissel Kobe in 2019, reuniting with former Arsenal team-mate Lukas Podolski.