Where are they now? Arsenal’s youngest ever Champions League side

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Having already sealed top spot in their group, Arsenal fielded their youngest ever Champions League team against Olympiakos in 2009.

The Gunners lost 1-0 in Greece, but Arsene Wenger was still impressed with his young outfit, which featured a starting XI with an average age of just 21 years and 215 days.

We’ve revisited that team to see how they’ve fared since.

Lukasz Fabianski

Fabianksi spent most of his seven years at Arsenal as back-up goalkeeper amid plenty of criticism for conceding a number of soft goals.

“It was a massive challenge, psychologically,” Fabianski told Sky Sports in 2019.

“I had come from Poland and the attention on you is much bigger when you get to the Premier League, so everything was doubled or tripled.

“Obviously, there were times when I struggled to deal with the criticism. It’s a process and, in my case, it took a bit of time to learn how to deal with it.”

The 34-year-old has since rebuilt his reputation at Swansea City and West Ham, establishing himself as one of the most reliable goalkeepers in the Premier League.

Kerrea Gilbert

Gilbert came through the youth system at Arsenal but struggled with injury and was allowed to leave permanently in 2010.

After a move to Portland Timbers collapsed, the right-back had spells at Yeovil Town, Shamrock Rovers, Maidenhead United and St Albans City before retiring at 27 to become a personal trainer.

Kyle Bartley

Making what was his first and last appearance in an Arsenal shirt, academy product Bartley was at fault for Olympiakos’ winner.

He was later sent on loan to Sheffield United and Rangers before moving to Swansea on a permanent deal in 2012.

The centre-back joined West Brom in the summer of 2018 and has been a regular for the club in their push for promotion back to the top flight.

Mikael Silvestre

At 32, Silvestre was the elder statesman in Arsenal’s starting XI.

The defender was released at the end of the 2009-10 season before spells at Werder Bremen, Portland Timbers and Indian Super League side Chennaiyin.

After hanging up his boots in 2014, Silvestre was appointed as director of football at former club Rennes but left by mutual consent in 2016.

Thomas Cruise

Just like Bartley, this proved to be Cruise’s one and only competitive appearance for Arsenal.

The defender was released in 2011 and had trials at Sampdoria and New England Revolution, but he eventually joined Torquay United in 2012.

He spent three years in the south-west but trained to become an accountant after being released.

“I think it’s important to look beyond the career as a footballer because it comes to an end between the ages of 34 and 38 – sometimes sooner due to injury,” Cruise said in 2016.

“I’ve had a few serious injuries in my career, and you should always have qualifications to fall back on.”

Theo Walcott

Walcott never quite fulfilled his full potential at Arsenal due to a mixture of injuries and plain bad luck.

The forward fell down the pecking order under Arsene Wenger and moved to Everton in 2018 in search of regular first-team football.

He has remained extremely Theo Walcott at Goodison Park.

READ: How the football Gods conspired to deny Theo Walcott Arsenal hero status

Aaron Ramsey

Ramsey proved to be one of the few success stories of this Arsenal side, despite breaking his leg two months after the game.

The Welshman bounced back to become a key player for the Gunners, hitting two FA Cup-winning goals in 2014 and 2017.

After 11 years at the Emirates, the midfielder signed for Juventus in 2019.

Alex Song

Song became a fan favourite at the Emirates, and his impressive performances in the 2011-12 season saw him earn a move to Barcelona.

However, the midfielder’s contract at the Camp Nou was terminated in 2016 and he is currently playing for Swiss Super League club Sion.

READ: Remembering the strange season Alex Song became Arsenal’s new Fabregas

Jack Wilshere (Giles Sunu, 77)

Once the future of English football, Wilshere’s terrible luck with injuries has continued since joining West Ham in 2018, where he has been restricted to just 14 Premier League appearances.

This proved to be Sunu’s last appearance for the Gunners, meanwhile, and the winger recently signed for French side Chateauroux after leaving BB Erzurumspor in Turkey.

Fran Merida

Merida showed glimpses of his talent in north London but grew frustrated over his lack of first-team opportunities and joined Atletico Madrid in 2010.

“It was a mistake, I wasn’t patient,” the 30-year-old told Yahoo Sport in 2015. “I realise that now, but I’ve never been a patient person.”

The midfielder only made 30 appearances for Atletico and had spells with Hercules, Atletico Paranaense and Huesca before signing for Osasuna in 2016.

Carlos Vela

Vela was considered one of the most exciting young players in the world at Arsenal and scored a stunning hat-trick on his first full start for the club.

But he never truly managed to establish himself in Wenger’s starting XI and was sold to Real Sociedad in 2012.

Vela is now thriving in America with Los Angeles FC, scoring 57 goals in 71 appearances for the club.

Unused Substitutes

Vito Mannone

The goalkeeper signed for Sunderland on a permanent deal in 2013 and is currently on loan at Danish club Esbjerg fB from Reading.

Craig Eastmond

Eastmond was part of the 2009 FA Youth Cup-winning team and made 10 appearances for his boyhood club before joining Colchester United in 2013 in search of regular first-team opportunities.

The midfielder continued to drop down the leagues and has spent the last five years playing for Sutton United.

Luke Ayling

This was the closest Ayling came to a first-team appearance at Arsenal before being released at the end of the 2009-10 season.

After spells at Yeovil Town and Bristol City, the defender has become a key player for Leeds United under Marco Bielsa as they challenge for promotion to the top flight.

Francis Coquelin

An injury crisis saw Coquelin given an opportunity in Arsenal’s midfield in January 2015, briefly forming an impressive partnership with Santi Cazorla.

But he failed to hold down a place in the starting line-up and eventually left north London in January 2018, joining Valencia for £12million.

Mark Randall

Randall was regarded as one of England’s rising young stars until a series of unsuccessful loan spells saw him released by Arsenal in 2011.

The 30-year-old has played for eight different clubs over the last nine years and recently signed for Larne in the Irish League.


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