Where are they now? The 38 Arsenal academy players to debut in the 2010s

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Arsenal are renowned for producing talented young players – but how have their academy graduates fared during this decade? 

The Gunners have previously developed stars like Tony Adams and Ashley Cole, while Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have recently been promoted to the first team.

We’ve taken a look at the 38 academy players to make their Arsenal debut in the 2010s to see how they have got on since.

Bukayo Saka

Saka made his competitive debut for Arsenal against Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League in November 2018.

The winger has become a regular in the first-team squad this season since scoring and providing two assists in Arsenal’s 3–0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.

Charlie Gilmour 

Gilmour was another Arsenal academy graduate to make his first-team debut against Vorskla Poltava. However, he was released at the end of the 2018-19 season and is now on loan at SC Telstar from Norwich City.

Zech Medley

Medley also made his debut against Vorskla Poltava in November 2018, but he has only made another two appearances for the club.

Julio Pleguezuelo 

Pleguezuelo joined Arsenal from Barcelona just after he had turned 16, but the Spaniard didn’t have an impact like Fabregas or Bellerin.

He made his first, and last, appearance for Arsenal against Blackpool in the EFL Cup last season, and he is now playing for FC Twente in the Eredivisie.

Emile Smith Rowe

Smith Rowe was part of the England squad that won the U17 World Cup in India two years ago and made his Arsenal debut in September 2018 against Vorskla Poltava.

He had an unsuccessful loan spell at RB Leipzig earlier this year, where he made only three first-team appearances, and the 19-year-old is now on the fringes of the Arsenal first team.

Matt Macey 

Macey signed for Arsenal in 2013 after a trial but has made just two first-team appearances for the Gunners.

Ben Sheaf 

The midfielder started his youth career at West Ham before transferring to Arsenal in 2014, and Wenger tipped him to have an impressive career.

“He’s always ahead of the game and his anticipation quality is absolutely huge,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.

“He has that kind of mental strength as well. A typical British way of handling things, facing the difficulties with a very cool and intelligent way.

The 21-year-old made his debut against Red Star Belgrade in the UEFA Europa League in 2017 and is now on loan at Doncaster Rovers.

Marcus McGuane 

McGuane captained Arsenal’s under 18’s and made two first-team appearances for the club before signing for Barcelona in 2018.

He became the first Englishman to play for Barcelona’s senior side since Gary Lineker, but he has mainly played for their B team and is spending this season on loan at SC Telstar.

Joe Willock

Willock has been associated with Arsenal since he was four years old, and he was given his debut in a Carabao Cup win over Doncaster in September 2017.

The 20-year-old started the Gunners’ first three Premier League matches of the campaign and was rewarded with a new long-term contract.

Josh Dasilva 

Dasilva joined Arsenal at the age of eight and went on to made three first-team appearances, but he rejected a new contract and left the club in 2018.

The 21-year-old joined Brentford on a four-year deal and recently scored the first hat-trick of his career in a 7–0 win over Luton Town.

Eddie Nketiah

Nketiah became an instant hit with Arsenal supporters after scoring two goals in the first ten minutes of his domestic debut against Norwich in 2017.

The striker got his first Premier League goal on the final day of the 2018-19 season and is currently on loan at Leeds United in the Championship.

Reiss Nelson

After making his Arsenal debut in 2017, Nelson spent last season on loan with German club 1899 Hoffenheim.

The 19-year-old then returned to the Emirates and started the first two league games of the season before scoring his first goal for the club against Nottingham Forest.

Chris Willock 

The forward is the older brother of Joe Willock and the forward made his Arsenal debut against Nottingham Forest in 2016.

After just two first-team appearances, Willock joined Benfica on a five-year deal but is yet to play for their senior team, having so far plied his trade in their B-team.

The 21-year-old returned to England in the summer and signed for West Brom on a season-long loan.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide 

After progressing through the Lens academy, Reine-Adelaide moved to Arsenal in 2015 but the midfielder never got a chance in the Premier League and was sold to Angers.

“It is true that I would like to speak a little less of Arsenal. I was young. It was complicated. There was so much competition that it was difficult to get into the coach’s line-up,” he told Goal.

“He [Emery] told me that the club did not rely too much on me. I took a blow, but Angers was on the lookout. It was a new chance, a new beginning. The train does not pass often and I was happy to get back in the right car.”

His performances for Angers then saw him earn a move to fellow Ligue 1 side Lyon in the summer.

Alex Iwobi

Iwobi debuted in October 2015 and eventually became a regular in the team under Unai Emery last season.

However, the arrival of Nicolas Pepe meant that there was increased competition for his position so the winger joined Everton for £34million in the summer.

Krystian Bielik 

Bielik joined Arsenal from Legia Warsaw in January 2015 and went into the youth teams before making his senior debut in the League Cup against Sheffield Wednesday.

The 21-year-old then had loan spells with Birmingham City, Walsall and Charlton Athletic before joining Derby County on a permanent deal in the summer.

Ismael Bennacer 

Bennacer made his Arsenal debut in the League Cup fourth round against Sheffield Wednesday in October 2015, but that proved to be his only first-team appearance for the club.

Following a loan spell at Tours, the midfielder signed for Empoli and his performances earned him a move to Italian giants AC Milan in 2019.

Glen Kamara 

Just like Bennacer, Kamara also made his first and last Arsenal appearance against Sheffield Wednesday in 2015.

In 2017, he signed a two-year with Dundee before joining Rangers earlier this year and the 24-year-old has recently been linked with a move to Leeds United.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles 

Maitland-Niles made his professional debut at the age of 17 years and 102 days in a UEFA Champions League match against Galatasaray in 2014. In doing so he became the second youngest player to have represented Arsenal in the competition.

He established himself as a regular first-team player in 2017-18, often filling in at right-back under Unai Emery.

Stefan O’Connor 

The game against Galatasaray also saw O’Connor make his Arsenal debut from the bench, but he was released at the end of the 2016-17 season.

The defender joined Newcastle to play for their under-23 team and is currently recovering from an Anterior cruciate ligament injury he sustained in January.

Emiliano Martinez 

The goalkeeper made his Arsenal debut in 2012, but the last seven years have encompassed six loan spells away from the club.

However, Petr Cech’s departure has led to Martinez becoming the back-up goalkeeper, and he has performed well in the Europa League this season.

Gedion Zelalem

Zelalem was tipped for stardom after joining Arsenal’s academy in 2013, predictably being spoken of as the nextt Cesc Fabregas.

He sees passes that not a lot of players can. You think ‘what’s he doing?’ and suddenly someone is in. He’s only 16 and he’s an exciting player,” Jack Wilshere said.

Howver, Zelalem failed to make an impact at Arsenal and joined Sporting Kansas City in the MLS after loan spells with Rangers and VVV Venlo.

Hector Bellerin

Bellerin signed from Barcelona’s academy in 2011 before making his Arsenal debut two years later. The Spaniard has since made the right-back spot his own and was recently named vice-captain.

Isaac Hayden 

Hayden made just two appearances for the Gunners before joining Newcastle United in 2016.

Chuba Akpom 

Akpom excelled in Arsenal’s youth teams but was never able to replicate that form with the first team.

The striker had six loan spells away from the club before joining Greek Super League club PAOK Salonika in 2018, but he has recently been linked with a move to West Ham.

Kristoffer Olsson 

Olsson had garnered interest from European clubs such as Juventus and Ajax, but he signed for Arsenal when he was 16 for £200,000. 

The 24-year-old made his debut against West Brom in the League Cup in 2012 and scored in the penalty shootout, but that was his last act for the first team.

Olsson signed for FC Midtjylland in 2015 and recently joined Russian side FC Krasnodar.

Thomas Eisfeld 

After leaving Borussia Dortmund in 2012, Eisfeld signed for Arsenal and was immediately sent to their under-21 side before making his debut in that 7-5 win over Reading.

“He is a Pires type,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “He appears to be in the box without being noisy and appearing suddenly. When he is there, he finishes well.

“He has that kind of quality that some midfielders have – not many. They have the timing to get in dangerous situations. When they have those dangerous situations, they are like snakes. They bite you to death because they don’t miss their first touch.”

However, Eisfeld only made two appearances for the club and completed a permanent transfer across London to Fulham in 2014. The midfielder is now back in Germany with VfL Bochum.

Jernade Meade

Meade joined Arsenal in 2004 at the age of 11, and he also made his debut against Reading in the League Cup.

His contract expired at the end of the 2012-13 season and the 27-year-old is now playing for Aalesund in Norway.

Serge Gnabry 

Gnabry is one of the few players on this list who has gone has gone from strength to strength since leaving Arsenal.

After leaving the Gunners in 2016, the winger has been a revelation in Germany and recently scored four goals against Spurs for Bayern Munich.

He’s come a long way since failing to make it into Tony Pulis’ West Brom team.

Martin Angha 

Angha only made two appearances for the Gunners before leaving in 2013 and the defender signed for Dutch side Fortuna Sittard in the summer.

Nico Yennaris 

Yennaris only ever made one Premier League appearance for Arsenal and joined Championship side Brentford in 2014. The midfielder spent five years at the club before his career took an interesting twist earlier his year.

He signed for Chinese club Beijing Guoan and has now become a naturalised citizen, becoming the first of the sort to be called up by the Chinese national team. He’s also changed his name to Li Ke.

Daniel Boateng 

Boateng was released in 2014 after making one appearance for Arsenal, and he is now playing for Aerostar Bacau in Romania.

READ: The Londoner who played for Arsenal then couldn’t face the lower leagues

Oguzhan Ozyakup 

Ozyakup signed for Arsenal on schoolboy forms in 2008 after signing from AZ Alkmaar. He only ever made senior appearances for Arsenal in the League Cup and joined Besiktas four years later.

The midfielder has since established himself as a regular in the Turkish national side and has been linked with a move back to the Premier League.

Chuks Aneke 

Aneke’s only appearance for Arsenal’s first-team was against Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup in 2011, where he came on as a 90th-minute substitute. 

The striker signed for Dutch side Zulte Waregem in 2014 before returning to England with MK Dons two years later. Aneke helped the club achieve promotion back to League One but joined Charlton Athletic in the summer.

Emmanuel Frimpong 

Frimpong of ‘Dench’ fame will be remembered for his off-field antics rather than his six Premier League appearances for the Gunners.

The midfielder later played for Barnsley, as well as clubs in Russia, Sweden and Cyprus before announcing his retirement in March after suffering with a serious knee injury.

Conor Henderson

Henderson was a highly-rated midfielder, and he made his debut against Leyton Orient in an FA Cup replay in 2011.

However, his Arsenal career was cut short by injuries and the 28-year-old recently joined Bulgarian club Pirin Blagoevgrad.

READ: The story of the player not equipped for the EFL despite 14 years at Arsenal

Ignasi Miquel 

Miquel struggled to establish himself in the Arsenal first team and joined Norwich in 2014. The defender returned to Spain a year later and is currently on loan to Girona.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas 

Emmanuel Thomas was once rated as one of the best young English talents, and he a big part in the Arsenal youth team winning the 2008–09 FA Youth Cup,

However, he was then loaned to the likes of Blackpool, Doncaster Rovers and Cardiff during his time in North London before joining Ipswich Town in 2011.

The striker signed for his tenth club when he joined PTT Rayong in Thailand earlier this year.


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