Where are they now? The last 10 Arsenal academy grads under Wenger

Arsene Wenger was renowned for giving young players a chance at Arsenal – and he continued to do so right up until the end of his reign.

The Frenchman developed a lot of talented players during his 22 years at the club and tried to produce the next generation of stars for his successor.

We’ve taken a look back at the last 10 players from the academy he handed senior debuts to and how they’ve fared since.

Matt Macey

Macey joined Arsenal’s academy in 2013 following a successful trial and made his first-team debut in a League Cup tie against Norwich in 2017. But he only made one further appearance.

The goalkeeper was subsequently loaned out to Plymouth Argyle, where he impressed in League One, before returning to his parent club and deputising on the bench for Emiliano Martinez as Mikel Arteta’s Gunners won the FA Cup in 2020.

Macey left for Hibernian on a permanent deal in 2021. He joined Luton Town last year but played no role in their promotion-winning campaign and spent the latter half of the season out on loan at Portsmouth.

Ben Sheaf 

Sheaf started his career with West Ham’s youth set-up before making the switch to Arsenal in 2014, and Wenger tipped him for a bright future.

“He’s always ahead of the game and his anticipation quality is absolutely huge,” Wenger told Arsenal Player in 2017.

“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 midfielder was handed his senior debut in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in 2017, but he has only made two more appearances for the club.

Sheaf is currently turning out for Coventry City, having signed for them in 2021 after a successful loan stint from the Gunners. He was a key player for the Sky Blues as they ended up a penalty shootout away from the Premier League last season.

Marcus McGuane 

McGuane was a highly-rated prospect and made the first of two senior appearances against BATE Borisov in 2017.

The midfielder then completed a move to Barcelona’s B team in 2018, becoming the first Englishman to represent the Spanish giants since Gary Lineker in 1989 when he appeared in the Catalan Super Cup.

McGuane is now back in England with Oxford United.

Eddie Nketiah 

Nketiah was also handed his debut against BATE but has gone on to have a much bigger impact at Arsenal.

The striker scored twice in 35 minutes on his next appearance for the club and then got his first Premier League goal on the final day of the 2018-19 season.

After an underwhelming loan spell at Leeds, he returned to the Emirates and has become a key squad member for Arteta. Nketiah is currently deputising for Gabriel Jesus and looks set to play a big role in place of the injured Brazilian striker in the coming weeks.

Joe Willock

Willock joined the Arsenal academy at the age of four and was given his debut in a League Cup win over Doncaster in September 2017.

The 23-year-old signed a new long-term contract with the Gunners in September 2019 and made 44 appearances in the 2019-20 campaign but could never quite nail down a first-team place from there.

Having scored eight goals in 14 Premier League appearances for Newcastle United whilst out on loan in the latter half of the 2020-21 season, Willock joined the Magpies on a permanent £25million deal.

Willock’s never quite recaptured the form of his initial loan, but he was an important player as Eddie Howe’s side qualified for the Champions League alongside Arsenal last season.

Josh Dasilva 

“I wanted to play for Arsenal for the rest of my life, but I had to do what was best for my career, ” Dasilva told The Independent earlier this year.

“I felt like I was ready to go and play men’s football. It’s not easy, but there were better opportunities and I believed in myself.”

He has since established himself as a solid player at Brentford, starring in their promotion to the Premier League and making 45 appearances to date for Thomas Frank’s Bees in the top flight. It would’ve been more if not for injuries in the 2021-22 campaign.

Reiss Nelson 

After making his Arsenal debut against Chelsea in the 2017 Community Shield, Nelson has gone on to make over 50 appearances for his boyhood club amid loans out to Hoffenheim and Feyenoord.

The winger remains on the Gunners’ books, although he’s been something of a peripheral figure in Arteta’s squad these days. Still, with very limited opportunities, he came up big with some clutch moments in Arsenal’s title charge last season and was promptly rewarded with a contract extension.

Chris Willock 

The 25-year-old is the older brother of Joe Willock and made his Arsenal debut in a League Cup tie against Nottingham Forest in 2016.

He only made one more first-team appearance for the club and signed for Benfica on a five-year deal in 2017.

But he has only ever featured for their reserves and is now back in England, with over 100 appearances for Championship side Queens Park Rangers.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide 

The former France Under-21 international found his opportunities limited at the Emirates, making just eight appearances for the senior side before joining Ligue 1 Angers in 2018.

“There were several circumstances. When I had the opportunity to get playing time, I achieved good and bad performances,” Reine-Adelaide told Lyon Capitale in 2019.

“So it’s my fault, I must admit because I wasn’t always good. However, I didn’t really have a chance. I played for the cup matches, with players who didn’t know each other very well… It was complicated.”

Reine-Adelaide was able to restart his career back in France and his performances earned him a €25million move to Lyon in 2019. He never quite impressed at Parc Olympique Lyonnais, though, and was loaned out to Troyes last season. It doesn’t appear as though he’s in Lyon’s plans for the upcoming campaign.

Alex Iwobi 

Iwobi’s senior debut for Arsenal came in in a 3–0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in 2016, and the winger went on to make 149 appearances for the club.

Nicolas Pepe’s arrival saw Iwobi fall down the pecking order under Unai Emery, and the Nigerian was sold to Everton for £28million in 2019.

He’s had his ups and downs at Goodison Park, failing to impress and looking an adept box-to-box midfielder in equal measure.

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