Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta reviews the West Ham game
Unai Emery’s tenure at Arsenal was a largely forgettable one. Despite glory in Spain and France, the Spaniard was unable to replicate any remanence of those past successes in north London.
During his 16 months at the club, Emery’s Arsenal struggled for consistency and found themselves in 5th place at the end of 2018-2019 campaign. In his first game in charge, the Gunners hosted Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium, losing 2-0 courtesy of goals from Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva.
But where are those players now? Here, Express Sport takes a closer look at Emery’s first Arsenal XI.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Despite getting off to a flying start at Arsenal, winning his fourth golden glove in his first season at the club, three years later, Petr Cech was showing signs of ageing and was clearly on the verge of retirement. After being hoisted out of his starting spot between the sticks by new arrival Bernd Leno, Cech hung up his gloves and turned his attention to ice hockey. The Premier League legend now plays as a goaltender for National Ice Hockey League side Chelmsford Chieftans in Essex.
Defenders – Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles
A back line that strikes fear into Arsenal fans’ hearts. Besides Hector Bellerin none of these four players ever really looked at home at the Emirates and have since moved on to play their football elsewhere.
Bellerin made the permanent switch back to his boyhood club Barcelona in 2022 but has quickly fallen out of favour at Camp Nou and is currently out on loan at Sporting Lisbon. Ainsley-Maitland Niles is still technically an Arsenal player but has spent the last three years on loan at West Brom, Roma and now Southampton. His contract is due to run out in the summer, after which his next destination is unknown.
Shokdran Mustafi has had one of the biggest falls from grace in football. Once a World Cup winner with Germany, Mustafi now plies his trade at Levante in the second tier of Spanish football. His time at the club has been plagued by injuries with the 31-year-old only managing to make 13 appearances in the league during his two seasons at Estadi Ciutat de València.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos had his Arsenal contract terminated by “mutual consent” in 2021 after being left out of the Gunner’s 2020-2021 squad. He has since returned to Greece where he plays for Olympiacos.
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Midfielders – Guendozi, Xhaka, Ramsey
Granit Xhaka is the only player from Emery’s first XI that is still playing for Arsenal today. The Switzerland international has come into his own this season and is a crucial part of Mikel Arteta’s phenomenal side.
Matteo Guenzouzi always had potential but never quite unlocked it at Arsenal. Luckily for him, he found it at his next club, Marseille, and has since broken into the French national team.
Aaron Ramsey left Arsenal following Emery’s inaugural term to sign for Juventus where he received £400,000 a week making him the highest-earning British player ever at that time. However, Ramsey never really found a consistent place in the Italian giants starting XI and following a loan move to Rangers, he left for Nice for free in 2022.
Forwards – Ozil, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan
It’s strange seeing Mesut Ozil start on the wing but it really happened. Depending on who you speak to you’ll get very different answers on how good he was in an Arsenal shirt. At this time, Ozil was starting to become a rotational player for the Gunners and would eventually leave the club at the same time as Sokratis. Two seasons at Fenerbache and one at İstanbul Başakşehir followed before his eventual retirement last month.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was playing his finest football in the red and white at this point and was easily the club’s best player. Following a spat with Arteta during his fifth season at the club he was moved on to Barcelona before an unfulfilled campaign with Chelsea this year.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggled at Arsenal but has gone on to have a decent career in his later years in Seria A with Roma and Inter Milan. The Armenian icon is now 34-year-old and still remains a regular starter for Champions League-chasing Inter.
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