Where are they now? Saka’s team-mates from his last Arsenal U23 game

Quick Reads

In less than two years, Bukayo Saka has gone from a promising young prospect to one of Arsenal‘s standout performers. 

Saka made his last appearance for Arsenal’s Under-23s in August 2019, starting in a 2-2 draw against Everton in the Premier League 2.

We’ve taken a look at the Arsenal Xl from that game to see how they’ve all fared since.

Karl Hein

Despite being a boyhood Manchester United fan, Hein rejected the Red Devils and joined Arsenal from FC Nomme United in the summer of 2018.

“I went to every club to show myself. I was at United for three days, in other clubs for a little longer,” Hein told the Estonian FA in 2020.

“The first impression might have been deceptive, but it seemed to me that discipline and the organisational side, as well as other details, were at a higher level at Arsenal.

“In Manchester, for example, the transport was always late, which is why I was late for training. The reception at Arsenal was very friendly and the club left a very good impression, because, let’s be honest, there was no difference in terms of level because both Arsenal and United are among the top in the world.”

Bar a few Europa League bench-sitting duties, he has spent most of his time with the Under-23s and is currently behind Bernd Leno, Mat Ryan and Alex Runarsson in the pecking order. 

The 18-year-old is already a full Estonia international with six caps to his name after making his debut in the UEFA Nations League game against Georgia in September 2020. The new Mart Poom, as we like to call him.

Mart Poom

READ: Mart Poom: Man Utd wanted me, but I loved Derby; Arsenal move an ‘honour’

Zak Swanson (Joseph Olowu, 71)  

Swanson joined Arsenal at the age of six and progressed through the ranks before establishing himself as a key player for the Under-23s in 2019-20.

The 20-year-old spent his first spell away from Arsenal earlier this season, joining Dutch side MVV Maastricht on loan.

After making his debut in a 7-1 defeat against SC Cambuur, he made just two more appearances for the club and was recalled by Arsenal in December 2020. The defender is now facing a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury. 

Olowu, meanwhile, is currently on loan at National League South side Wealdstone FC and his Arsenal contract reportedly expires at the end of 2020-21.

Rob Holding

Having suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in December 2018, Holding spent some time with the Under-23s to regain match fitness. 

The centre-back looked set to join Newcastle United on loan ahead of the 2020-21 season but the move was blocked by Mikel Arteta.

He’s since enjoyed a revival at Arsenal and was rewarded with a new long-term contract in January 2021 after becoming a mainstay in Arteta’s side.

READ: With one run, Robaldinho became the hero to give fans ‘their Arsenal’ back

Harry Clarke

Signed from Ipswich Town’s academy in 2015, Clarke racked up 15 appearances for Arsenal’s Under-23s in the Premier League 2 in 2019-20. 

He is getting his first taste of senior football on loan at League Two side Oldham Athletic this season and has put in a series of assured performances at the back. 

“Harry has been an instant success since coming in at the start of the season,” former Oldham manager Harry Kewell told their official website in January 2021.

“For a young man he’s a very talented individual and I’m sure the supporters have enjoyed seeing the impact he has made in the heart of defence already.”

Tolaji Bola

A local lad, Bola was on the bench for Arsenal’s 5-0 win against Nottingham Forest in September 2019 but is yet to make his debut for the Gunners. 

The 22-year-old made 12 appearances during his loan spell at League One side Rochdale before returning to Arsenal’s Under-23s in January 2021.

Robbie Burton

Despite being appointed captain of Arsenal-Under 23s, Burton couldn’t see a path into their first team and joined Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb in February 2020. 

“It was a risk to move here,” Burton told the Sun in March 2021. “I felt I was ready for first-team football and I’d got to an age where I needed that experience.

“The history of Dinamo bringing through top young players like [Luka] Modric has always been excellent. The way they brought through world-class midfielders attracted me. So many Croatia internationals came through here. It’s a great place to be as a young player.”

The 21-year-old initially started in the reserves but has made a few senior appearances this season and was on the bench for their Europa League win over Tottenham. 

Emile Smith Rowe (Jordan McEneff, 77)

After returning from his loan spell at RB Leipzig, Smith Rowe made two Premier League appearances under Freddie Ljungberg and then went back out on loan in January 2020.

The ‘Croydon De Bruyne’ was finally afforded a run of games in the Arsenal first team in December 2020 and hasn’t looked back since, helping fill the creative void left by Mesut Ozil.

Despite enduring an injury-plagued season with Arsenal’s Under-23s, McEneff still extended his contract with the club in March 2021.

READ: Smith Rowe is already spotting assists nobody else can see – just like Ozil

Trae Coyle

Having spent his entire career in Arsenal’s academy, Coyle decided to join League One side Gillingham on a season-long loan in 2020. 

The 20-year-old scored four goals in 21 appearances for the Gills, including a volley against Arsenal’s Under-21s in the EFL Trophy. 

But he struggled to hold down a place in the starting line-up and was recalled by the Gunners in January 2021.

Tyreece John-Jules

John-Jules is yet to make his senior Arsenal debut but has already caught the eye of Mikel Arteta after starring for their Under-23s.

“He can do everything,” Arteta said in January 2020. “He links really well on the ball every time he’s out of the number nine position. He’s got a really good ability to do that.

“He reads situations earlier than others and he’s a good finisher as well. Physically he’s developed in a really good shape. I think he’s a very complete player.”

The striker is spending this season on loan at League One side Doncaster Rovers after a short spell at Lincoln City in 2019-20.

Bukayo Saka (Nathan Tormey, 64)

Saka enjoyed a brilliant breakthrough campaign in 2019-20, becoming the first teenager to hit double figures for assists in a single season for Arsenal since Cesc Fabregas in 2006-07. 

The versatile winger has been the one consistent bright spot for the Gunners in recent times and also made his senior England debut in September 2020. 

Tormey turned down a new contract offer from Arsenal and has been without a club since leaving the Gunners in 2020.

READ: Bukayo Saka is the playground footballer Arsenal and the PL needs

Folarin Balogun

Regarded as one of the brightest prospects at Arsenal, Balogun is a prolific goalscorer at youth level and made his first-team debut against Dundalk in October 2020.

He has two goals and an assist in four Europa League appearances but is yet to make a Premier League appearance for the Gunners.

The 19-year-old now looks set to leave Arsenal after failing to agree on a contract extension beyond the end of the 2020-21 season.

According to The Athletic, Liverpool are one of several clubs monitoring Balogun’s situation with a view to signing him on a free transfer.


More Arsenal

What former Arsenal players have said about Bukayo Saka: Cesc, Ramsey, RVP

Can you name every £10m+ player signed by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal?

Where are they now? Arsenal’s six wonderkids from Football Manager 2011

The 16 Arsenal academy grads playing elsewhere in major leagues in 2020-21

Planet Football Stories