Where are they now? Arsenal’s youngest ever starting Xl from 2008

Arsene Wenger was renowned for his policy of developing young players at Arsenal – but what’s happened to the players he picked as part of the club’s youngest ever starting XI in 2008?

He named it for a League Cup third-round clash against Sheffield United on September 23, 2008, and the young Gunners ran out 6-0 winners.

We’ve taken a look back at their side from that day which included some future stars and a few flops.

GK: Lukasz Fabianski

Fabianksi spent most of his seven years at Arsenal as the backup goalkeeper, and he was heavily criticised towards the end of his time at the club.

Since leaving the Emirates in 2014, the Poland international has established himself as one of the Premier League’s most consistent stoppers, first at Swansea and now at West Ham.

RB: Gavin Hoyte

After progressing through the Arsenal academy, Hoyte went on to make just one Premier League appearance for the Gunners and had four loan spells away from the club.

The defender was released in 2012 and has had a career in the lower leagues with Dagenham & Redbridge, Gillingham, Barnet and Eastleigh before signing for Maidstone United in 2019.

READ: The story of Gavin Hoyte and his one Premier League game for Arsenal

CB: Johan Djourou

Djourou spent 10 years at Arsenal but never looked like the answer to their defensive problems, making some high-profile mistakes.

The Switzerland international signed for Hamburg in 2014 before joining Turkish side Antalyaspor three years later and then moving to Serie A with SPAL in 2018.

In 2019, he returned to Switzerland to play for Sion, but he was one of nine players who refused a pay cut at the start of the Covid pandemic and was sacked along with fellow ex-Arsenal man…

CB: Alex Song (Henri Lansbury, 70)

…Song, who joined Sion a year before his old mate.

Since leaving, Djourou has taken Sion to court while playing for Neuchatel Xamax and Nordsjaelland. Song, meanwhile, has been at Djiboutian side Arta/Solar7.

While at the Emirates, Song became a fan favourite as he protected the back four and possessed a brilliant passing range. And his good form earned him a move to Barcelona in 2012.

However, the midfielder flopped at the Nou Camp and his contract was terminated in 2016, so he signed for Rubin Kazan before joining Sion in 2018.

Lansbury had four loan spells away from Arsenal, and he signed for Nottingham Forest in 2012 before moving to Aston Villa in 2017.

LB: Kieran Gibbs

Gibbs came up through the Arsenal academy and later established himself as a regular in the Arsenal team.

The arrivals of Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolašinac eventually saw the left-back struggle for first-team opportunities at the Emirates, and he signed for West Brom in 2017, where he stayed until Phil Neville’s Inter Miami came calling in 2021.

CM: Mark Randall

Randall was regarded as one of England’s rising young stars and he was earmarked as a future star by Arsene Wenger.

“He is a player I like personally because he has all the qualities. At this club, he didn’t get the breakthrough yet but I am sure he will be a late developer because there is so much quality that I refuse to think he will not make it,” said Wenger.

However, after a series of unsuccessful loan spells the midfielder was released in 2011 and joined Chesterfield before leaving the Midlands for a season in Italy with Ascoli.

In 2019, Randall signed for Larne in the Irish League.

CM: Aaron Ramsey

Ramsey had a difficult start to his Arsenal career, and he suffered a broken leg after a challenge from Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross in 2010.

However, the Welshman eventually delivered on his early promise and became a key player for Arsenal before hitting two FA Cup-winning goals in 2014 and 2017.

After 11 years at the Emirates, the midfielder bade an emotional farewell to the club and signed for Juventus in 2019. It hasn’t been plain sailing in Turin, however, and Ramsey is regularly linked with a move back to north London.

RW: Fran Merida (Francis Coquelin, 71)

Merida joined Arsenal as a 15-year-old from Barcelona in 2005, and he was tipped to be Cesc Fabregas’ long-term successor at the Emirates.

The Spaniard failed to establish himself in Arsenal’s Premier League side, and he refused to sign a new contract before joining Atletico Madrid in 2010.

“It was a mistake, I wasn’t patient,” the 29-year-old told Yahoo Sport. “I realise that now, but I’ve never been a patient person.”

“I had some opportunities but the competition was high. Arsenal bought Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere into the first-team. Samir Nasri, Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky and Denilson were also in my position. It was difficult for me.”

Merida also struggled for first-team opportunities at Atletico and had spells with Hercules, Athletico Paranaense and Huesca before signing for Osasuna in 2016.

Coquelin made 106 Premier League appearances for the Gunners, but he signed for Valencia in January 2018.

AM: Jack Wilshere

Wilshere was still only 16 when he started against Sheffield United, but he was already seen as the future of English football.

Despite his brilliant performance against Barcelona in 2011, the midfielder wasn’t able to fulfil his potential as his last few years at the Emirates were plagued by injuries.

After a loan spell at Bournemouth, Wilshere left Arsenal in 2018 and signed for West Ham, but he only made four Premier League starts last season.


LW: Carlos Vela

Vela capped his first start for Arsenal with a brilliant hat-trick against Sheffield United, and he looked like the prolific goalscorer that the Gunners needed after Thierry Henry.

However, that was about as good as it got for Vela at the Emirates and after a loan spell at West Brom, the forward spent several years at Real Sociedad

Vela is now thriving in America with Los Angeles FC and recently broke the Major League Soccer record for goals scored in a single season.

READ: Iconic debuts: Carlos Vela’s sensational hat-trick on his first Arsenal start

CF: Nicklas Bendtner (Jay Simpson, 71)

Bendtner may not have had the most successful time at Arsenal, but the maverick was nothing if not entertaining.

The striker only scored 24 Premier League goals for Arsenal and surprisingly earned a loan move to Juventus in 2012. Bendtner went on to play for Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest and Rosenberg before rounding out his career with a short spell at Copenhagen in 2019.

Simpson spent most of his time out on loan and never played a league game for Arsenal. He last played for Nea Salamis in Cyprus.

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