Eddie Nketiah is the only player still left at Arsenal from the 2015 vintage of academy graduates and plenty of his former team-mates have gone on to star at other clubs
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Arsenal pride themselves on having one of the best and most prestigious academies in European football – and they have the track record to back up that reputation.
Mikel Arteta’s current squad contains Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah, who all came through the academy set-up, while Folarin Balogun, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson could all be involved next season after spending time away from the club on loan. That is a very decent hit rate, considering the vast majority of academy graduates never make the club’s first team.
Smith Rowe and Saka are both well established in Arteta’s side and they will be joined by Nketiah next season after the 23-year-old striker committed his future to the club by penning a long-term contract . The move was a significant one for the Gunners following the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and news that Alexandre Lacazette will follow suit.
As shown by Arsenal Youth , he is now the last Arsenal scholar left at the club from the 2015 list of graduates. That is testament to Nketiah’s staying power, but also shows the difficulties of developing young players. Plenty of that intake of players have gone on to success at other clubs. Here Mirror Football casts an eye over Nketiah’s former team-mates to see where they are now.
Tolaji Bola – Rotherham
Bola is a left-back who joined the club at under-nine level and was a regular with the under-23s, making 55 appearances, but never made a senior appearance for the Gunners. He spent the 2020/21 season on loan with Rochdale, making 11 appearances, and then signed for Rotherham United last summer.
Josh Dasilva – Brentford
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Dasilva only made three appearances for Arsenal’s first team, but has already established himself as a regular at Brentford. The versatile midfielder, who won five caps for England under-21s, has 18 goals and nine assists in 113 appearances for the Bees, having joined them on a free transfer back in August 2018.
Vlad Dragomir – Pafos
Romanian midfielder Dragomir is another who never got onto the pitch for the Gunners’ first team. He only spent three years with the Arsenal academy before moving back to Romania in 2018. He’s since played for Perugia and Virtus Entella in Italy and is now in Cyprus with Pafos.
Yassin Fortune – Sion
Fortune, an attacking midfielder or forward, was an exciting prospect from an early age. He was a regular for France at youth level and netted seven times in 15 appearances for his country’s under-18 side. He never made it in three years at Arsenal though, leaving for Sion in Switzerland in 2018 without ever reaching the first team. He spent last season on loan with Stade Olympique Choletais in the third tier of French football.
Charlie Gilmour – St Johnstone
Gilmour was scouted by Arsenal at the age of six. He came all the way through the Arsenal academy system and made two appearances for the first team. The defensive midfielder was sold to Norwich in 2019 and has since moved on to St Johnstone in Scotland and spent last season on loan with Alloa Athletic.
Donyell Malen – Borussia Dortmund
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Malen can perhaps be described as one that got away for Arsenal. The Gunners beat competition from Chelsea and Manchester United to sign the Dutch forward from Ajax in 2015, but sold him two years later to PSV without seeing the best of him. Malen was fantastic at PSV, scoring an eye-catching 55 goals and contributing 24 assists in 116 appearances for the club. That form earned Malen, who was represented by the late Mino Raiola, a move to Borussia Dortmund last summer where he signed a five-year contract.
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Jordi Osei-Tutu – VfL Bochum
Osei-Tutu became the final scholar of 2015 to leave Arsenal behind this week when he agreed to join Bundesliga outfit Bochum on a three-year deal. The defender spent periods on loan with Nottingham Forest, Cardiff City, Rotherham United and Bochum, but never got a chance with the first team.
Marcus McGuane – Oxford United
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McGuane spent his youth in the Arsenal academy but only made two appearances for the club before leaving for the prestigious Barcelona set-up in 2018. The central midfielder played 24 times for Barcelona’s B team and was sent on loan to Telstar for a season. He moved on to Nottingham Forest after two years and has since wound up at Oxford United, where he has one goal and five assists in 55 games so far.
Kostas Pileas – Ethnikos Achnas
Pileas spent three years in the Arsenal academy, playing for the under-18s and under-23 before returning to his native Cyprus in 2017.He now plays for Ethnikos Achna after four years with Αnorthosis Famagusta.
Nathan Tella – Southampton
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Tella spent 10 years in the Arsenal academy before switching to Southampton in 2017 after trials with Norwich and Reading. The exciting and pacey forward has two goals and five assists in 41 appearances for Saints, but is yet to nail down a starting place in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first-choice XI.
Joe Willock – Newcastle
Willock was an extremely popular player among Arsenal fans and contributed 11 goals and four assists in 78 games for the club over a four-year period after coming through the academy. He earned a £25million transfer to Newcastle last summer after scoring in seven consecutive matches while on loan with the Magpies in the second half of the 2020/21 season.