The Top Ten Teenagers that played for Arsenal

During this international break, a lot has been made about Gareth Southgate not being afraid to put his faith in youth, Jadon Sancho the first to be born after the year 2000 to get called up to the England squad. When it comes to not being afraid to blood teenagers though, Arsenal have one of the best reputations in the world. In fact, statistics show the Gunners are the most likely top-flight club to give youngsters an opportunity. So here are my top 10 teenagers to have played for Arsenal.

I’m going off how old I am, so anyone older feel free in the comments to add any names.

Gael Clichy (10)
Leaving in the same depressing summer when we sold Fabregas and Nasri, our left back also going to Manchester City went under the radar. Fitting, as I don’t think he ever got enough credit for his consistency. Introduced in the ‘Invincibles Season’ he played enough games to qualify for a Championship medal, often asked to play in front of Ashley Cole. At a time when paying off stadium debt meant we were always looking to save money, having a readymade replacement for Cole saved us millions.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (9)
Slightly disappointed that the OX has often rewritten his history with the club. He says his move to Liverpool was motivated to play CM, feeling his career had stagnated at the Emirates. This attitude is an example of how comfortable our players became under Arsene Wenger. The reality is, as a teenager he was given playing time at the top level under a manager who stuck by his injury problems where others wouldn’t. He didn’t stay fit enough to ever prove his dream of being ‘the next Gerrard’ while not having the mentality to take a game by the scruff of the neck. While he never liked the role of wing back, for me it was that position where he had his best run in the first team, his contributions in the FA Cup semi-final/FA Cup Final the highlights of his career so far. Worth pointing out, he finds himself injured at Liverpool.

Jack Wilshere (8)
Kind of sad to look back at when this man was a teenager, predicted to be his club and country’s next big thing. MOTM performances against Barcelona led to praise from the likes of Iniesta and Xavi, who compared his playing style to what they had been taught. The reality is, he’s still yet to top those nights in Europe. It became clear early on, the only thing to stop his progress, would be the man himself. Wilshere started to suffer ankle injuries, that ever the loyalist, Arsene Wenger dismissed as coincidences not a long-standing issue. The midfielder displayed incredible mentality to keep coming back but refused to change how he played the game, dribbling with ball, releasing at the last moment, inviting kicks from the opposition. He was willing to take a pay cut to stay at the club he loves but was unhappy when Uni Emery didn’t guarantee him playing time. Having finished 6th, it was unreasonable for any gunner to have such demands from a new boss. I wished he had the mentality to fight and prove his manager wrong but can understand he’s missed so much football, he wants to make up for lost time. The fact he’s already injured at West Ham, validates Emery’s decision.

Theo Walcott (7)
There’re not many players who score over 100 goals for a club who would divide opinion from start to finish. As a teenager, Theo achieved landmarks such as being called up to the World Cup without kicking a ball for his club, while his first goal as a gunner was in a League Cup Final against Chelsea. He earnt a reputation for blistering pace but a lack of a footballing brain. My opinion though is he was greatly let down by the lack of leaders in our changing rooms. In hindsight, it was unrealistic for Arsene Wenger to expect a young squad to win things without any experience around them. Theo would even publicly talk about being too nice and finding a mean streak, like he was trying to convince himself. The poster boy of the post Invincibles era, injury prone, protected by his boss too much, mentally not strong enough?

Aaron Ramsey (6)
The world took notice of the teenager after Cardiff’s unexpected road to the 2008 FA Cup Final. England’s top sides began a bidding war for the Welshmen, with Sir Alex Ferguson believing coming to Old Trafford was a done deal. Arsenal though had developed a reputation for giving youth a chance, making them a number one destination for the top youngsters in Europe. Rambo, along with Wilshere were the future of our midfield, something that didn’t happen due to injuries to both. Breaking his leg at Stoke, Arsene Wenger showed patience where others wouldn’t, especially when his own fans got on his back. To this very day, he divides opinion. I would love him to stay. Although many view him overrated, the majority agree he’s been too injury prone to deserve the 200 000 pound a week he desires. Whatever happens, he’s won 3 FA Cups, 2 of which he scored in, a contribution to our history no one will ever be able to take away from him. Not bad for 4.5 million.

Paul Merson (5)
Grew up at the club, more than just in sporting terms. Came to North London, as a teenager, experienced the highs of winning titles and Cups then the lows of addiction which made everyone question the drinking culture at our club. In an era where fans would chant, ‘boring boring Arsenal’ Merson offered some flair. It takes a lot for George Graham to believe in creativeness/imagination, that’s how good the midfielder was when focused/motivated. I wish he had followed in his peers’ footsteps by following Arsene Wenger’s ideas regarding training and dietary requirements, he would have added a couple more medals to his collection.

Nicholas Anelka (4)
Not for the first or last time, Arsene Wenger used his knowledge of French football to recruit a young talent, most of the World hadn’t heard of. Not loaned out to adapt to the physical nature of the League or saved for cup ties, the striker was trusted almost immediately, eventually pushing Ian Wright out of the team. Got the nick name,’Le Sulk’ for how his big brothers manipulated his move away from Highbury, an image he never shook off. Did he end up with lots of money and some trophies? Yes. Did he become one of the best in the world like his early form suggested? No. Meanwhile his transfer paid for a state-of-the-art training facility and a certain …. Thierry Henry.

Ces Fábregas (3)
His team had just gone a whole season undefeated so there was no need to rush a 17-year-old into the squad. After his first year, he had convinced Arsene Wenger the time was right to sell Patrick Viera. The Spaniard became the face of the,’new Arsenal’. Wenger was trying to rebuild a team, relying on youth due to us paying off stadium debt. Fabregas became a role model for his younger peers, leading by example. Taught in the same academy as the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Pique, Fabregas had the footballing philosophy Arsenal stood for. It became a case of when and not if he returned to Barcelona with all parties seemingly with an agreement it would happen one day. He needed more experience/physicality around him. For what he gave, deserved more than just an FA Cup medal for his time with us

Ashley Cole (2)
Forming this list with my head not my heart, it’s hard to produce someone from your academy who will have a better career then Ashley Cole. That’s why it hurt so much when he was caught talking to Chelsea behind our backs. This is a man who should have been our future captain, leading a young team into a new era. It’s not often you find a talent in your youth set up who could claim to be the best in the world in his position. He had an understanding with Pires and Henry on our left side which proved vital in our Untouchable season.

Tony Adams (1)
Debuted soon after turning 17, with senior internationals saying how a rookie was not scared to order them into position and tell them when they made mistakes. Adams was given the armband at just 21 – a responsibility he didn’t give up until 2002, making him our longest serving skipper of all time. A defender we developed who won 13 major honours, leading the Gunners for most of them. The real Mr Arsenal.

Dan Smith


  1. Phil says:

    Can’t argue too much as you stated within your age limit.But the best of all time from our academy in my opinion without doubt would be Liam Brady.Its a Shame you guys were not able to see this player in an Arsenal shirt.My Second favourite of all time ( behind Dennis Bergkamp ) and a true Arsenal Legend.
    I believe you will be getting a long list of who to include from the past by older fans like myself.Good topic headline to discuss on a Sunday with no football for a week.Be interesting to see how far back this goes

    1. Phil says:

      Also Dan-good to see you still posting articles.See you have kept this one nice and safe.Or you would think so anyway

    2. dan says:

      Cheers Phil
      I’m aware of Brady and knew he broke through as a teenager but thought it wrong to write about someone I didn’t see in the flesh

    3. jon fox says:

      Beyond question. None of the others in my view get anywhere near Chippy Brady. The article writer is clearly much younger than he makes out

      1. dan says:

        Before my time mate

        1. jon fox says:

          We had already worked that out. It was obvious. Had you seen Brady you would be in no doubt he was the best by far.

    4. Kenny Rolfe says:

      You know what Phil? Been through all the letters and can’t believe nobody mentioned Charlie George. Charlie was a fantastic prospect at 18 years of age and a real idol to all who stood on the North Bank. I know he left us for Derby but I knew him quite well met him lots of times in the old Riley’s club in Islington. You couldn’t meet a truer Gooner and a former North Bank boy himself

      1. Phil says:

        Noarguments from me Kenny.I have met Charlie on a few occasions and he is as big a fan of the Club as he is a Legend.Top player and even better man.

  2. kev says:

    I agree with you on Clichy.He is so under appreciated.The same happens with Eboue.When he was in form and playing well he poses an attacking threat more than any fullback Arsenal have had after Ashley Cole.I think when Clichy was in Arsenal he is better than any of our LB’s to date.He was very reliable,had speed and could occasionally beat his man.He’s not like some of our overrated players today who even after normal performances people keep talking about as if they are world class.I thought he could become world class and after him I’ve never thought the same about any Arsenal LB.

    1. jon fox says:

      Totally disagree on Calamity Clichy , as I always called him. Mistake after mistake. I almost cried out in joy when I heard that City Had taken this mistake on legs off our hands for the ridiculous(as in high, at the time ) sum of £7 million. One of the most overrated players ever in my view and what he is doing on this list at all is a mystery to me. You are clearly decades younger than me, if you rate this player. Remember the home game against Spuds which finished 4 -4. We were 4-2 up going into injury time and CALAM , while with the ball on half way line, simply fell over in fright when two Spud players approached him, then took the ball unchallenged by Calaam and scored . Finally equalising after 95 mins. A joke player, frankly who could not defend for toffee.

      1. dan says:

        I am decades younger lol

  3. Drew says:

    Great article, and so many to choose from. Personally I would also include the much missed David Rocastle.

  4. Gavana says:

    OT Germans were comprehensively beaten yesterday, was it because of Mesut Ozil?

    1. Andrew E says:

      Must have been because there is no other way they would have lost!!!!

  5. Andrew E says:

    I would have added both Liam Brady and David O’leary (558 games for us) but I won’t quibble with your choices which are good ones. I share your sadness about Ashley Cole who was truly world class and would have gone on to become captain and one of the Arsenal greats. Perhaps another that deserves consideration, Nicolas Anelka?

    1. Andrew E says:

      Sorry, Anelka was on your list>

  6. gotanidea says:

    Never saw Paul Merson played, but his statistics showed that he was a world class midfielder

    He seems to know a lot about strategy and current Arsenal players’ abilities as well, from his comments. I wonder why he didn’t continue his managerial career?

    1. Phil says:

      @gotanidea-Merson was certainly not world class but there is no doubt he was a very good player.Who knows just how good he could have been if he had not had so many issues that clearly affected his performances.Wenger seemed to have got him back on track when he first arrived but soon sold him on which was the right decision.Good player who COULD have been and perhaps SHOULD have been so much better than he eventually proved to be.

  7. Olaitan Kayode says:

    This is off point but I would love to say this:

    Mesut Ozil is still the most creative playmaker in the world right now.. I have seen a lot of argument about ozil perform here and how people slate him, expect PHILs who also support this creative maestro. Germany national team hasn’t score a goa since ozil last played for them.. This show how important ozils creativity is in any team..
    Believe it or not, Ozil is arsenal most valued and best player… All he needs is for the team to play to his strength..

    Iwobi is going to be a great player if he continue to improve. Another master class in Nigeria yesterday…

    1. Phil says:

      Olaitan-There are more than a few who still believe in Ozil and his undoubted ability.But to be fair to his critics Ozil has to become consistent and start to prove his worth to the side.I am trusting in Emery to realise that playing Ozil wide to accommodate Ramsey in the centre is clearly never going to get the best from the player.Ramsey should now be benched (or side lined preferably) as he is clearly not part of our future.Ozil is and will become the player we know him to be.Provided of course the team and tactics are designed to get the performance.

      1. jon fox says:

        Phil, I now have to part ways with you , bigtime too, on OZIL. To my mind he is a luxury, albeit one blessed with sublime talent on the rare occasions he can be arsed to use it. As older fans you , I and many others who use this site , will not have come across bone idle players(back before Walcott signed around 13/14 years ago. I cannot stand players who cheat the fans, the club , the shirt and even themselves by not working flat out. I see Ozil as simply unwilling to work and unlike you am not going to make any more excuses for him. YES, I AGREE HE HAS TO PLAY CENTRALLY, or rather I did til recently. But the sheer weight of regular evidence is that he just will not , does not buy into Emerys team ethic. Sorry chum, I always respect your huge football knowledge but on OZIL I HAVE GIVEN UP ON HIM. I BELIEVE HE WILL FORCE YOU TO DO LIKEWISE ERE LONG. In fact, I notice your recent posts about him always are qualified somewhat , compared with what they used to be. Phil , we surely have to face reality! Or pay the price in results. Surely we all support the team first, way above ANY player!

        1. Phil says:

          JF-I get why you and many others are so critical of Ozil but I won’t accept that he is a lazy player who doesn’t care.He is a sublimely talented playmaker when used correctly and with the right players around him.He has to play centrally in a free role of that I don’t believe anyone will dispute.If Emery plays with Lacazette and Aubamayang up front then Ozil has everything he could wish to have in terms of quality strikers to pick out.
          I just refuse to give up on Ozil and I don’t believe Emery will either.We potentiality have awesome attacking strength when you add Mykitarian and have Welbeck and a dramatically improved Iwobi as back-up.An on form Mesut Ozil is a benefit to the team and improves us immensely.He works harder than he is often given credit for and although I’m not big on stats I believe his workrate is often better than he is given credit for.The fact he has no International games these days should£ helpmhim keep fit and this can only benefit him and the team.
          We will see next week how Emery sees things.Aftercthe Fulham game you would feel the Manager will go with the same line-up.But I’m convinced he will play Ozil in place of Mykitarian or Iwobi with Aubamayang coming in for Welbeck.Ozils goal late against Watford showed how he can still make the runs.He was the only player Lacazette had in the box to pick out.Not the sign of a lazy player to me.However I will not argue with anyone who sees things differently as Ozil has previously given negative attitude and at times deserved criticism from the supporters.Just not from me though

          1. Andrew E says:

            Fully agree Phil, with the right players around him he can be lethal. He has been lumbered with Giroud (5 chances per goal and not one on target during the World Cup) in previous years, not to mention a shaky midfield. But now has Torreira behind him plus Laca and Auba to do the finishing. Let’s judge him at the end of this season.

      2. Midkemma says:

        I’m with you on this one Phil.
        Ozil is a top talent but he needs to be used correctly to get the best out of him, not every manager can get the best out of every player and currently Emery is not getting the best out of Ozil.

        Alexis performed for Wenger but not as well for Jose since. Is that not a perfect example? 🙂

        Dismissing Ozil as a poor player because he hasn’t been utilised correctly is upsetting, he wears our badge and although he isn’t a sprinter, he does cover a lot of distance per match and his effort is missed by people who go from memory alone rather than all evidence available to them.

        I believe that Ozil runs around 10km a match and The Mirror ran a story about EPL Marathon men, David Silva was 20th with 10.74km per match (311.5km over the season, 29 EPL games)
        Ozil (according to sky sports) ran 329.3km for the whole season, okay this is the season before as I did have difficulty finding last seasons stats with confidence, that was over 33 games, 4 more than Silva last season.

        Ozil has averaged about 10km per match for multiple seasons now, he hasn’t dropped 1km a match or more to become lazy… He doesn’t do the gut busting sprints and some people are too focused on the flashy and not the real work. They remember highligh clips and not the full detail of the whole game, what happens off the ball etc.

        I would like to see Ozil in his number 10 role now we have Torreira in CM as the real DM. Xhaka has been freed up to move forward a bit at times and he can pick passes, he has done well in our attack since he has had a DM alongside him to cover his weakness.

        I find it hard to blame Ozil when I consider who was behind him when he was playing well and who was our CM over the past couple seasons when he has been slated more often than normal.

        1. Phil says:

          Impressive stats Midkemma-anyone would think the player just trotted around doing nothing with some of the things written about him.This is an exceptional footballer we have and the team needs this player.

          1. Midkemma says:

            Football is a team game… Not every player will be capable of everything.
            Ozil isn’t great at defending but I have noticed he is closing people down more as time goes by, Emery has gotten him tracking back… He isn’t a sprinter though and gets exposed, this I would blame Emery more than Ozil.

            If Ozil can be made to play like he did with Cazorla behind him then Auba and Laca will be fighting each other before too long, which one wants the golden boot the most XD

  8. Olaitan Kayode says:


    OZIL is still the most creative player in the world.. I have read many people condemning him here except Phil. German national team hasn’t score a goal since the last time he played for them.. This shows how hard it is to replace his creativity.

    All emry and arsenal need to do is play to Ozil’s strength. The last time we did, he had 19assists to his name…

    He is still arsenal most creative and valued player.

    IWOBI is a work in progress and if he continue to build on this form, he will be the next big thing in arsenal.. What a master class performance in Nigeria yesterday

    1. jon fox says:

      On what recent evidence – NOT a year or more ago please – do you base your extraordinary claim? If you are to be the best creative player in the world, then surely you need to be creating goals CURRENTLY, don’t you think? Personally, I don’t believe in living off past reputations. Long past too, in his case. Also true creative players , eg Iniesta, Modric, David Silva HAVE to work hard and do so regularly , wouldn’t you say? Unless of course you are biased and I cannot even begin to imagine ANY fan of ANY club who is biased! Agreed? However on Iwobi , you are talking about actual CURRENT form, so I am with you on him.

  9. snowden says:

    The club’s reputation for encouraging it own young players and finding talented young players is second to none. It is i believe a reputation that all who love Arsenal can be proud of.
    As for your list hmm – its a good one. Had he stayed i think i would have put Brady first as the most skillful player but he didn’t stay. When Brady got the ball your blood not just your heart throbbed in anticipation.

    It is such a pity that Brady and Adams were not regulars in the same team.
    Would the writer be prepared to make top 20 list?

    1. dan says:

      Any other lists you like?
      Keeps me going over international break

      1. Sue says:

        This international break is so crap!!! I’m at a loose end! There isn’t any darts to watch either ☹ roll on a week tomorrow ?

  10. Jah son says:

    Question off topic
    Top five center forward so far this season
    Hurry Kane
    Now it’s a know fact that the team to win the league must have an inform stricker Arsenal’s got two.
    Why are arsenal fans not allowed to dream?

  11. Jah son says:

    Don’t post too often but this would be my team against to six opposition
    Auba Laca
    Gwen xhaka Torriera
    Mon Rob Sokratis bel

    1. dan says:

      Hey mate
      Keep posting
      I been abit dissapointed by Auba so far this season
      But 2 goals vs Fulham could be confidence boost he needs

    2. jon fox says:

      I see you think we can do without a keeper. Odd I thought! Or perhaps you don’t regard him as being part of the team?

  12. ozziegunner says:

    Good list Dan, although I have to support Phil in his naming of Liam Brady – pure genius, Drew in naming the brilliant David Rocastle and Andrew in naming the truly professional David O’Leary. All players Arsenal would love to have today.
    The player I would add is England international midfielder Graham Rix.
    As for Ashley Cole he was offered £55,000 to resign with Arsenal and if I rightly recall asked for £60,000 per week. When rejected he signed for £90,000 per week at Chelsea, who were found guilty of “tapping him up” the previous season.
    As an aside today I watched the highlights of Arsenal U18’s versus West Ham on Utube and there were plenty of positives in the 2:1 win. The future looks bright.

    1. Phil says:

      OG-I was in Brussels for the European Cup Winners Cup final in 1980 when we lost on penalties to Valencia.Brady took our first penalty and missed.That was his last kick in an Arsenal shirt before signing for Juventus.But even that miss never stopped my love for that man.He remains the greatest Arsenal player ever to come through our ranks.When you consider Adams Rocastle et al there is no higher accolade.

      1. ozziegunner says:

        Phil, even the great Dennis Bergkamp missed a penalty and I’ve even sat in stunned amazement when Mark Waugh spilled a catch! The best all round cricket fieldsman I have seen.

    2. stubill says:

      Regarding the U18’s, we’ve just lost the head coach of them, Kwame Ampadu. He’s gone to join Henry at Monaco.

      1. ozziegunner says:

        stubill let’s hope that Arsenal sign a top replacement quickly, as there is a lot of talent there. Maybe Dennis Bergkamp can be coaxed back; he has always expressed a desire to return to the Arsenal?

  13. Sue says:

    So Arsenal women beat Chelsea 5-0…. screamer from Nobbs!! Always nice to beat them, whether it’s the men or the women! I thought a couple of the Chelsea women were men!!! ?

  14. Midkemma says:

    This is a good article Dan.
    Stick to Arsenal and you do some good articles, this was an interesting read, thank you 🙂

    I think when Bellerin overtook Debuchy he would have been a teenager to say but his recent few seasons has tarnished him in the eyes of many, forgetting how well he broke into the first team.

    If Iwobi keeps his improvements going then he could very well end up on that list in the near future, the lad is working hard and it is paying off.

    How about Szcz? He did do very well and he did share the golden glove with Chavskis Cech, that is worthy of praise considering Arsenals record at defending when directly compared to Chavski…

    Unfortunately Wengers coaching dropped and all those players was hurt by it, I would still rate Szcz higher than The Ox though in that current list, I am delusional enough to think he could become the best GK in the world and he is primed to reach that within a few years at Juve.

    1. dan says:

      I can see sch coming back 1 day?

      1. Midkemma says:

        I wish 🙂
        He did do a naughty with the smoking but imagine how well he would have done if we had a proper GK coach when he was here, someone like Bob Wilson…

        It’s a dream to see him play for us again but I can’t see Juve ever selling him for a fee which I can imagine Arsenal paying, not unless we start achieving things and generate enough to splash the cash…

        But if we did that then what message would it send to Leno?

        Leno wears our badge now, as much as I am a fan of Szcz, Leno wears our colours and I want him to progress. I can’t see how we would have both the GK either, one or the other would leave to be the starter.

        But who knows huh? I can’t tell the future any more than the rest of us, maybe we can somehow get Szcz back and competing with Leno and keep them both happy.

        Heart is torn on this one XD lol.

  15. dan says:

    Maybe Juve literally want worlds best and view Szech as bar below
    If that’s the case , he would come back
    Says he loves club, calls himself Arsenal fan

    1. Midkemma says:

      Who knows with the future.
      I have dreams but they are dreams…
      You are fueling those dreams nicely though XD

      I was a fan of Fabianski as well but same problem, it was our GK coach who let him down.

      Bonus to this though is that we have Emery and he has a good record of working with promising GKs, he done well at PSG for Areola and at Seville their GK had his best form with Emery from what I read.

      Keeping my fingers crossed that Martinez is growing behind the scenes and will surprise us all in 12-18 months time 😛

  16. big g says:

    How about another player from our past who doesn’t get a shout very often and though he wasn’t rated one of our best i feel he was very underrated. His name – Frank Stapleton.

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