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Ranking Arsenal’s five best academy graduates of the Premier League era

Arsenal’s prospects under Mikel Arteta have been improved following the emergence of several bright prospects from within the club’s academy ranks, the likes of Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock the latest stars to breakthrough in north London.

That duo, alongside the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson, join a long list of home-grown talents to have made a first-team impression after coming through the Arsenal youth system in modern times.

We’ve decided to look back at some of the best talents the Gunners have produced, here are our rankings of Arsenal’s five best academy graduate of the Premier League era…

5. Wojciech Szczesny

Szczesny was given his chance in the Arsenal first-team at just 20-years-old, the club confident that the young Polish shot-stopper could become their long term number one.

Though evidently talented, Szczesny was raw during his initial performances and would make a series of mistakes – notably a howler during the 2011 League Cup final against Birmingham.

The goalkeeper would recover and help Arsenal to two FA Cup wins, however, whilst he would also win a share of the Premier League’s Golden Glove award after a joint-high 16 shut-outs in 2013/14.

Despite this, Wenger would lose faith in Szczesny and after securing the signing of Petr Cech from Chelsea, sent the goalkeeper out on loan to Roma.

The Polish international would spent two seasons on loan in the Italian capital before joining Juventus on a permanent deal, since establishing himself as the club’s number one and winning back-to-back Serie A titles.

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4. Jack Wilshere

A story that sadly looks like it will be one of unfulfilled potential, Wilshere would burst onto the scene as an exciting teenage talent, becoming the club’s youngest ever league debutant before establishing himself in the first-team set up under Arsene Wenger.

The precociously talented midfielder was marked out as a future star for both club and country, combining flawless technique with a drive and energy to make his mark at the heart of the Gunners’ side.

Named as the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2011, he would be named in the divisional Team of the Year that same campaign whilst also being crowned as Arsenal’s Player of the Season.

Injuries would sadly halt his progress, however, and despite twice winning the FA Cup he would struggle to remain fit, making more than 30 league appearances on just one occasion during his ten year stay at the Emirates.

Capped 34 times for England, Wilshere would leave on a free transfer for West Ham in 2018, though injuries have continued to haunt the 28-year-old and he has made just ten league appearances for the east London club.

3. Hector Bellerin

Plucked from Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, Bellerin would head to north London as a teenager where he has since established himself as an Arsenal fan favourite in seven seasons at the club.

Since making his senior debut in 2013, Bellerin has made 189 appearances in all competitions and scored eight goals, winning the FA Cup on two occasions and being named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2015/16 as the Gunners finished as runners-up.

A dynamic full-back known for his blistering pace, injuries have halted his progress in recent times but he remains an important member of the first-team squad, captaining the club on occasion.

Still just 24-years-old, Bellerin has room for further development and will hope to reignite his career in the coming seasons, having been tipped to develop into one of the world’s finest attacking full-backs some years ago.

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2. Cesc Fabregas

Another player signed from Catalonia with the promise of an easier route to first-team football, Fabregas would not have to wait long for his Arsenal bow, becoming the club’s youngest ever debutant and goalscorer whilst still just 16-years-old.

The Spanish midfielder would become the club’s bright hope following the dismantling of their ‘Invincibles’ title-winning team under Arsene Wenger, quickly establishing himself as one of the finest young talents in the division and winning the FA Cup in 2005.

Named as the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2008, Fabregas would be included in the divisional Team of the Year that same season and again for a second time in 2010.

He would succeed William Gallas as captain and become an increasingly influential figure, making 303 appearances and scoring 57 goals in all competitions for the club before a £34m transfer to Barcelona, the lure of returning to his boyhood side proving too strong for the Spaniard.

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1. Ashley Cole

Cole’s relationship with the Arsenal fans may have turned sour following a controversial move to London rivals Chelsea, though there can be no denying that the former England international is amongst the club’s greatest ever academy graduates.

The left-back would come through the ranks in north London before cementing his position in the first-team under Arsene Wenger, playing a crucial part in two title-winning teams including the Gunners famed ‘Invincibles’ side that completed an entire league season unbeaten.

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Regarded by many as the greatest left-back the Premier League has seen, Cole would form a formidable partnership down the left-hand side with Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, the trio working in tandem in one of the most iconic teams the division has witnessed.

Cole would make 228 appearances and score nine goals before his switch to Stamford Bridge, adding three FA Cups to his silverware collection alongside the aforementioned Premier League titles.

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