Coral’s Arsenal academy graduates currently playing in Europe XI
Arsenal (6/5 for victory) are preparing to face their north London rivals Tottenham at White Hart Lane, with no less than five Gunners homegrown graduates set to feature.
That got Coral football writers thinking, and we’ve come up with a squad of stars past and present that spent at least three years in their youth academy (from the age of 15 to 21) and are still currently playing professionally.
Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczesny (Current)
The Poland keeper may have been dropped by Arsene Wenger the past few games, due to reportedly smoking in the showers, but it was a choice between Szczesny and now Sunderland stopper Vito Mannone, so the former gets the nod.
Right back: Hector Bellerin (Current)
The pacy young Spaniard, who was snapped up from Barcelona, has highly impressed for Arsenal this season, since breaking into the first team, and scored as spectacular goal against Aston Villa last time out in the Premier League. Bellerin gets in ahead of Justin Hoyte, who now turns out for Millwall.
Relive the 5-0 win over Villa, with Bellerin’s effort amongst the highlights…
Centre back: Philippe Senderos (Past)
It’s difficult to believe that Swiss centre back Senderos has played for the likes of top European teams Arsenal, AC Milan and Valencia, but he made over 100 Gunners appearances before Wenger eventually decided to sell him to Fulham. He now turns out for Aston Villa.
Centre back: Matthew Upson (Past)
Another defender that didn’t quite make the grade at Arsenal is veteran Upson, who sent four years at the club as a youth, making just 35 Premier League appearances. He did manage to claim honours with the Gunners, though, winning the top flight title and the FA Cup. Upson, 35, now represents Leicester City.
Left back: Ashley Cole (Past)
Cole is one of the most high-profile players in this team, and was a key part of the club’s 2003/04 Invincibles campaign. He annoyed fans by crossing over to Chelsea a couple of seasons later and the England centurion now plies his trade in Italy for Roma, where he has been used sparingly.
Defensive midfield: Alex Song (Past)
Ex-Cameroon international Song was a key part of the Gunners team during his six-year spell, linking up with the likes of former captain Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, and his performances eared him a move to Barcelona. Things have not quite worked out in Catalonia, though, and he was sent out on loan to West Ham United this season, where again he has thrived.
Right midfield: Aaron Ramsey (Current)
Horrific injuries has threatened to derail Welsh star Ramsey’s career, but he keeps coming back and showing his class. The former Cardiff City player, who moved to the Emirates at the age of 17, is available for the match against Spurs, and is 7/2 to score anytime.
Left midfield: Jack Wilshere (Current)
Another alleged smoker on this list, Wilshere has been ruled out of the derby day with Tottenham, but makes this team due to his ability, that he still unfortunately fails to show on a regular basis, perhaps due to his long injury record too. Wilshere has been on Arsenal’s books since the age of nine.
Attacking midfield: Cesc Fabregas (Past)
Fabregas is another player snapped up form Barca’s La Masia academy at a young age, and he went onto skipper the Gunners, before moving back to his former side. The Spaniard is now on the books at London rivals Chelsea, after reportedly snubbing the chance to return to the Emirates in the summer.
Striker: Theo Walcott (Current)
Former flying Southampton winger Walcott is being tried out as a striker by Wenger, when he is fit, in an attempt the replicate the successful transition he made with Thierry Henry. The 25-year-old is back to fitness, following his serious knee injury against Spurs last season in the FA Cup, and is a 15/8 chance to get revenge on them by netting anytime.
Watch Walcott rubbing in his side’s 2-0 scoreline to Spurs supporters as he was being stretchered off last season…
Striker: Dwight Gayle (Past)
Gayle is the odd one out of this team, having never actually played a first-team game for the Gunners, but he was on their books as a youngster, before being released. He didn’t let that deter him, though, as he worked his way up through non-league football, before being snapped up by Peterborough United and then Premier League side Crystal Palace. He still gets in this side ahead of Nicklas Bendtner.
GK: Vito Mannone (Past)
LB: Gael Clichy (Past)
CB: Johan Djourou (Past)
DM: Francis Coquelin (Current)
CM/WG: Sebastian Larsson (Past)
RW: Serge Gnabry (Current)
ST: Nicklas Bendtner (Past)