If there’s one thing that Arsenal are renowned for, it’s their specialisation in promoting youth products. We’ve seen players such as Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs come through the ranks, with the latest prodigy being Alex Iwobi.
For quite a long time now the Gunners have been known for their youthful side. As the saying goes, “You can’t win anything with kids” proved to be right for some time, however, Arsenal have got back to winning ways. Surely it won’t be too long before they can have another Premier League title to their name.
On many occasions, Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have so often got it right. But they've also got it wrong on many occasions. What looked to be promising players turned out to be mishaps. Here’s five academy graduates who failed to make it at Arsenal.
#5 Arturo Lupoli
There’s no doubt that Arturo Lupoli was destined for big things at Arsenal from such an early age. Labelled as the next Italian ‘wonderkid’ at Parma, the youngster had a big decision to make. Should he stay with the Italian side or move to Premier League giants, Arsenal?
The scouting staff at Arsenal certainly saw something which prompted the club to award him his first ever professional contract. Early in his spell with the Gunners, he looked promising.
“He is like a sniper. When you give him a chance, he takes it,” said Arsene Wenger. Making his debut in the League Cup against Manchester City certainly showed some promise. His next game, against Everton, in the same competition, saw the Italian score a brace in a 3-1 victory.
Unfortunately, he just didn’t have the technical ability to progress to a high standard. Just three years into his spell at Arsenal, he was sold to Fiorentina, where he failed to establish himself after several failed loans. At 30-years-old, he’s now playing for F.C. Südtirol in Italy’s third division.
#4 Fran Merida
Arriving at Arsenal from Barcelona in 2005 after signing professional terms with the Gunners after his 17th birthday, Fran Merida was tipped to be Cesc Fabregas’ potential successor.
The Spaniard showed early signs of promise at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger described him as “an absolutely amazing player” during his early career. However, the arrival of Kyle Ebecilio in 2010 probably meant limited appearances in an Arsenal shirt, thus resulting in a permanent move away.
Upon departing Arsenal for Atletico Madrid in 2010, Merida claims that Arsene Wenger begged him not to leave the club and after a failed spell with the Spanish giants, he’s surely wishing he listened to his former manager.
Spending most his time in the Spanish second division, Merida made a move to Osasuna in 2016 where he played a year in La Liga before the club were relegated. At 27, the Spaniard is just entering his prime as a midfielder and so it will be interesting where he ends up next.
#3 Jay Simpson
Regarded as one of the hottest strikers in English football at the time, Jay Simpson impressed during the Emirates Cup and League Cup. An eye for goal, the youngster had two Premier League goals in just three games during the 2008/09 season, but unfortunately, he was never able to kick on.
Following loan spells at Millwall, West Brom and QPR, Simpson was shipped out permanently to Championship side Hull City in 2010. 13 goals in 86 games followed before his footballing abilities took a downward spiral.
In 2014, the Englishman spent the season at Buriram United in the Thai Premier League, before playing for League Two team, Leyton Orient. At 28, Simpson is plying his trade in the MLS with Philadelphia Union where he has yet to find his goalscoring form.
#2 Quincy Owusu-Abeyie
Following a successful trial at Arsenal in 2002, given to him by Liam Brady, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie was awarded a contract at the Premier League. And a truly deserved one at that.
At such a young age, the Dutchman looked destined to succeed. Quick, two-footed and a talented dribbler, Owusu Abeyie made 23 first team appearances in all competitions for Arsenal – 13 of those came during his final season at the club, before moving to Spartak Moscow.
Choosing to play for Ghana, the wizard-winger learnt from players such as Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Emmanuel Adebayor. Unfortunately, the arrival of Theo Walcott in 2006 resulted in the end for Owusu Abeyie.
#1 Henri Lansbury
Of this list, Henri Lansbury is no doubt the one that kicked on the most during his time at Arsenal. He’ll be remembered by fans for his role in an important victory against local rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the North London Derby.
Although he may not have made it at Arsenal, he’s had the most decorative career out of these highly-thought academy players at Arsenal. He’s captained Championship side Nottingham Forest before making a January move to Aston Villa in 2017 for £3 million.
His skills learnt under the tutelage of Fabregas and Co. at Arsenal are still evident in his game today. At 26, Lansbury is a crisp-passer of the ball whilst he has that drive from midfield that can cause many opponents a list of problems.
It wouldn’t be surprising if we see Lansbury once against playing in the Premier League.