Best current XI of ex-Arsenal players

At this moment in time, Arsenal are at the beginning of what must be seen as a rebuild.

The squad consists of both ageing players and young stars, with only a few players the ideal age for success.

The likes of David Luiz and Mesut Ozil are past their best and should at the very least be phased out of the starting line-up.

At least one of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette is likely to be sold this summer, so they will also need replacing.

On the other hand, players like Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli are incredibly promising but are still too young to be the key cogs in the Arsenal machine.

Mikel Arteta probably knows that the next 1-2 seasons should be dedicated to growth.

Fans should not expect results right away, due to the quality and age profile of the Arsenal squad.

In fact, the Spanish gaffer probably regrets the fact that Arsenal have not held on to some ex-players.

The Gunners have lost some talents that are currently performing fantastically for other clubs.

Some were perceived to be not good enough, others were poached by clubs who were better set for immediate success.

Following on from the best current XI of ex-Liverpool players on Anfield Central, the following is the Arsenal equivalent.

Form in the current season is strongly considered, but quality in previous seasons also comes into account.

Wojciech Szczesny

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Starting things off is Juventus keeper Wojciech Szczesny.

The Polish number one joined Arsenal’s youth academy in 2006, making his first-team debut in 2009. He became first-choice in 2011.

After some issues with discipline and form, Szczesny signed for Roma on a two-year loan deal in 2015, before signing for Juventus in 2017.

He originally shared minutes with Gigi Buffon but has since evolved into one of Serie A’s best goalkeepers after ironing out the errors that scarred his time in London.

He fought off competition from compatriot Lukasz Fabianski to take his place in this XI.

Luke Ayling

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Luke Ayling is the first of four players in this team that was part of the Gunners’ youth set-up but never played for the first-team.

Ayling joined as a 10-year-old but left the club in 2010, signing for Yeovil Town.

He currently plays for Leeds United, where he has become one of the Championship’s best fullbacks.

The now 28-year-old has shone this season, as Marcelo Bielsa’s men look to secure their return to the Premier League.

Mathieu Debuchy is still playing regularly in Ligue 1, which is a stronger league than the Championship.

However, Ayling is standing out in his league, while Debuchy’s last few seasons can only be seen as average.

Gabriel Paulista

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Gabriel Paulista’s form this season may come as a surprise to Arsenal fans.

The Brazilian never cemented himself into the Arsenal backline in his year and a half at the club.

Yet he has performed admirably for a struggling Valencia side this season, and may well be better than any of Arsenal’s current centre-back options.

He ranks in the top 10 among centre-backs in La Liga for interceptions, clearances and shots blocked per game this season.

Semi Ajayi

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This is the second time that a Championship promotion contender has overcome an ageing Ligue 1 player to make this XI.

This time, Semi Ajayi has beaten off competition from Laurent Koscielny.

Nigerian international Ajayi signed for Arsenal from Charlton in 2013, joining up with the u21 side.

He left the club to join Cardiff City in 2015, without making a first-team appearance.

He only began to shine when he moved to Rotherham in 2017.

His form led to him being called up to the Nigeria squad. He has since played nine times for the Super Eagles.

He signed for West Brom in 2019 and has been a key part in their push for promotion to the Premier League.

Expect to see him in the top flight next season.

Gael Clichy

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Much like centre-back, there is not much competition for places at left-back.

However, 34-year-old Gael Clichy is still going strong in Turkey for Istanbul Basaksehir.

His team, who also boast names like Robinho, Demba Ba and Martin Skrtel, are currently top of the Super Lig.

He has two goals and three assists this season and is proving to be the outstanding left-back in the country.

Despite his age, his form makes him the best ex-Arsenal left-back currently playing, so he makes this XI.

Ismael Bennacer

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While this team’s defence is rather weak, the competition for places in midfield is actually quite strong.

Taking his place as the holding midfielder in the 4-3-3 formation is Algerian Ismael Bennacer.

He is the third player in this XI to have never played a first-team game for Arsenal.

He left for Italian second-tier side Empoli in 2017, who he helped gain promotion to Serie A.

Despite suffering relegation in 2018/19, Bennacer was still one of the best midfielders in Serie A, even though he only turned 21 midway through the season.

He was also named both the best player and young player at AFCON 2019, as his country won the competition.

He earned a move to AC Milan, where he has continued to excel.

Ismael Bennacer is most certainly one that got away for Arsenal.

Aaron Ramsey

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Cesc Fabregas would have been a shoo-in a few short years ago, but he is now past his best at Monaco.

Instead, we will go for Ramsey, who is the most recent departure in this XI.

He is a player that Arsenal would certainly have rathered to have kept last summer, but he cannot be blamed for accepting the large wage packet offered to him by Italian giants Juventus.

Ramsey has failed to establish himself as an out-and-out starter in Turin thus far, as he has made only nine Serie A starts.

However, he is still featuring regularly for one of Europe’s top clubs and his quality cannot be denied.

Santi Cazorla

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Jeff Reine-Adelaide is unlucky to have suffered an injury-hit season at Lyon, but it is highly unlikely that he would have performed well enough to keep Santi Cazorla out of this side.

The Spaniard has enjoyed a miraculous renaissance in his homeland after being told a few short years ago that he would never play again due to injury.

He left Arsenal to return to Villarreal in 2018, where he was expected to play very few minutes if any at all.

However, he has not only featured regularly, but he has been one of the best players in the league.

Cazorla has 12 goals and 8 assists in league and cup this year, at 35 years of age.

He has also returned to the Spain squad and is certainly one that would improve the current Arsenal team.

Serge Gnabry

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The wing positions are possibly the most hotly contested in this XI.

Alex Iwobi, Carlos Vela, Denis Suarez and Alexis Sanchez could all be potential inclusions, but in reality, none were ever getting in ahead of Serge Gnabry.

Another player signed to the youth academy as a teenager, Gnabry actually did make ten senior appearances for Arsenal.

He flattered to deceive at times, despite his obvious talent.

He returned to Germany with Werder Bremen in 2016, where he earned himself a move to Bayern Munich.

After a year on loan at Hoffenheim, Gnabry has become a Bayern regular.

2019/20 has proved to be his breakout campaign, and he is establishing himself as one of the best wingers in Europe.

He endeared himself to Gooners in 2019, as he scored four times in Bayern’s 7-2 demolition of Tottenham in the Champions League.

Donyell Malen

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The striker slot is one that encourages the quality over quantity debate.

Olivier Giroud has been a good Premier League striker for the best part of ten years.

He is beginning to feature more prominently for Chelsea since football’s return from the coronavirus inflicted break and is currently in good form.

Then there is Donyell Malen, who has only a season and a half of professional football in the Eredivisie under his belt.

Ultimately, we went for Malen, who returned to Holland with PSV in 2017, without playing a competitive game for Arsenal.

While Giroud is on the wane, Malen is only beginning to make waves.

The 21-year-old scored 11 and assisted five in 14 games in the league this season before he picked up a knee injury in December.

If he can make a good recovery, he seems likely to reach levels that even the underrated Giroud hasn’t seen.

Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain

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Recently crowned Premier League champion Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is enjoying a fantastic period at Liverpool.

His time at Anfield has proved that he is at his best in central midfield, but part of the reason that Jurgen Klopp was willing to spend over £34 million on him was his versatility.

There was great competition in this teams midfield and he was the most capable of playing out wide, so finds himself on the left-wing.

While he may not be the first name on the Liverpool team sheet, he is still a fantastic player for the club and was in great form before football’s enforced break.

There was no way that he was going to be left out of this XI.

Substitutes

Fabianski, Koscielny, Coquelin, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Vela, Giroud

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