Where Are They Now?

After the news broke that one our most expensive signings ever Francis Jeffers was set to make a move to Maltese giants Floriana, it gave me a sense of nostalgia and wondering as to the whereabouts of some of the other players who didn’t quite make it at Arsenal when we hoped they would and disappeared of into the wilderness of post Gooner football.

We begin with the aforementioned fox in the box, who you may recall had a serious obsession with scoring goals. If only all obsessions were as serious as his; I’d suspect certain deceased singers with drug addictions would be not so deceased and I wouldn’t be spending £15.99 a month on certain websites, that allow you to watch certain videos of a certain nature.

Now where were we

Francis Jeffers

After signing the young scouser from Everton for £8million, great things were expected of him. Signed to partner Thierry Henry and provide the perfect foil, things didn’t quite work out like that and after an injury hit spell that finished with him getting sent off against Man.United, he has fallen through the divisions. After a loan spell back at Everton, then spells with Charlton, Rangers, some other poo poo teams and a stint with Newcastle Jets he is available on a free and is currently set to sign for the Maltese champions, Floriana. Wiki stats (I know I know) have him down as scoring a massive 37 goals throughout his career, and after scoring 18 of those at Everton as a teenager it makes pretty horrible reading. 31 years old now which means he only scored 19 (league) goals in 11 years – just over a goal a season and he’s played at some pretty low levels.  Rumour has it upon arriving in the changing room, he came in with such an arrogance and cocky swagger that many of the senior players took an immediate dislike to him. Im not sure how true this is, but I’ve posted it on the internet now so it’s as true as a fact will ever be. When considering he left his boyhood team out to dry in order to force through the move to us, I’m not too surprised. In fact, maybe he is the little boy inside of Robin Van See You Next Tuesday?

Arturo Lupoli

I genuinely believed the little Italian would go on to do great things for us before securing his backstabbing multimillion pound transfer to some other team. After tearing up the reserve leagues with a Mr. Bendtner there were high hopes for him, 27 goals in 32 appearances in the 2004/2005 left him as the top scorer and I was somewhat excited about the prospect we had on our hands. However after a poor loan spell at Derby County where he only managed 7 goals in 35 appearances, I guess the evidence was clear – although I did still expect him to pull up some trees, as you do, at Fiorentina and I thought we’d be cursing the day he left as the one that got away. However all trees in Fiorentina were safe, as were they in Treviso, Norwich, Sheffield United, Ascoli and Grosetto where he currently ply’s his trade.

Alexander Hleb

Perhaps a questionable inclusion as he wasn’t exactly a flop with us, but that’s the reason I felt it necessary to include him. Signed in 2005 for around £12million from Stuttgart, he enjoyed a fairly good three seasons with us.  After forming a great midfield quartet with Fabregas, Flamini and Rosicky, Barcelona came calling he duly signed, declaring his love for the club upon arrival and expressing his desire to succeed at the club. However Barcelona had different ideas and he only started 5 times in the league that season. He rejected a move to Inter Milan as part of the Ibrahimovic deal, instead opting for a move back to Stuttgart where he was just as bad and had the club interested in ending his loan deal early. Loan deals with Birmingham (where he won the league cup, would you believe) and an unsuccessful spell at Wolfsburg followed, before a move to Krylia Sovetov Samara was over before you could say ‘how silly are you for leaving Arsenal’. Just the 8 appearances before he was released, but the competition at the club was mightily fierce in all fairness. Hleb’s career has finally come full circle as he made the transfer to his first team BATE Borisov, the Belarusian champions. Next time you hear of ‘doing a Hleb’ as some kind of warning, you know why.

Fran Merida

Another player I had high hopes for. Fran Merida was signed as a youngster from Barcelona under controversial circumstances over the transfer fee or the lack of, should I say. A player Arsene Wenger described as having ‘too much quality’ was hoped to have been the next Fabregas by many fans and some strong performances at reserve and youth level enhanced this believe. A loan spell at Real Sociedad gave him a taste of first team football and the following season he was set to join Levante on loan before Wenger pulled the plug, believing Fran would make first team appearances that season. However he didn’t make as many appearances as I imagine he would have liked and signed and he ended up signing a pre-contract deal with Atletico Madrid halfway through the season which riled Wenger and may explain why Fran only made 8 appearances that season. After rejecting an offer from Arsenal at the end of the season he moved to Spain on a permanent basis and I thought he’d be a player I’d wish was still with us. However it seems his career has gone somewhat Aruto Lupoli, as he didn’t quite make the grade at Madrid and jumped at  the chance to go on loan to Braga in the hope of emulating Eduardo Salvio’s success out in Portugal. This didn’t materialise and his loan spell was cut short, returning home after making only 5 (132 minutes) appearances. After a two year spell at Atletico he was released on a free transfer and joined Hercules at the beginning of this season. At the age of 22 there is still time for him to turn his career around and fulfil the potential that Wenger believed he had – hopefully he doesn’t quite replicate the career of Lupoli and can make the grade at some respectful European team.

Nacer Barazite

The talented Dutchman, signed as a 16 year old from NEC was coveted as a possible solution to our midfield problems at a time when Tomas Rosicky was struggling. He impressed with the youth and reserves teams and had a successful loan spell with Derby County but failed to make a league appearance for the gunners, making way in 2011. I find it quite a surprise that he wasn’t given a chance to shine with us, considering the fact he was often the star man in reserve games and the success of his loan spells. He even hit out at his lack of opportunity with Arsenal in the media, stating;

“To be honest I do believe I wasn’t given a fair chance to break through into the first team,”

He moved to Austria Wien in January 2011 where he eventually managed to find his feet, scoring an impressive 11 goals in 12 Europa League games and 19 in 33 games in all competitions in 2011-2012 which earned him a 3 million move to As Monaco, where he currently plys his trade.

Whether we can brand Barazite a flop is probably a bit 50/50. At the end of the day he didn’t get a chance with us and he didn’t do too bad in Austria, but there must’ve been a reason Arsene let him go. Maybe he thought we had too many midfielders and wanted him to move to progress his career, or maybe he just didn’t think he made the cut with us. Either way, he’s only 22 and can still make something good of his career.

Quincy Owusu Abeyie

Another one of Arsenal’s carling cup boys who didn’t make the cut. Similar to a lot of players in today’s game, his talent was never in doubt, but his attitude let him down.  This meant that Ajax, the club where he spent his youth, decided against offering him a first team contract. After a trial at Arsenal he was signed and scored a bundle of goals for the u18’s, netting 17 times in 20 games in the 2002-2003 season. He had the talent to succeed. He was fast, tricky and versatile, but his attitude problems led to Wenger offloading him in 2006, the same transfer window in which a certain Theo Walcott joined the club. He moved to Russia to play for Spartak Moscow but didn’t exactly shine there either, spending a relatively quiet season on loan with Celta Vigo before heading back to Russia. He had more loan spells with Birmingham and Portsmouth respectively, where he enjoyed relative success, even coming close to securing a permanent deal, but for extraneous circumstances to halt the transfer. He never quite turned out to be the Thierry Henry type player we thought he could, featuring just 23 times for the Arsenal first team scoring just 2 goals, and his switch in allegiance from the Netherlands to Ghana even shows his inability to reach his potential, knowing he wouldn’t be able to make it. He now plys his trade with Panathinaikos after an unsuccessful spell with Al-Sadd.

Christopher Wreh

A striker who was doing well on the international scene with Liberia, tempting Wenger enough to go out and sign him, despite having worked with him at Monaco, where he struggled to hold down a place in the team. Despite being quite low in the pecking order during his early Highbury years, he managed to establish himself as somewhat of a hero. He scored the winnings goals against Wimbledon and Bolton in the Premier League and sent Arsenal into the FA Cup final with his strike against Wolves, playing his part in the 1997/1998 double winning campaign. At least he’ll be remembered for something. Despite his promising start, he was never to hit them heights again. The arrivals of Thierry Henry and Davor Suker sent him further down in the pecking order and was subsequently sent out on loan to AEK Athens, Birmingham and Den Bosch. He eventually left in 2000, with 5 goals in 46 games to his name (albeit most of them as a sub) and signed for Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia before returning to the UK in 2001 where he played in the lower leagues with Bournemouth and St Mirren, even plying his trade with Bishop’s Stortford at some point. Believe it or not he even went lower than this, playing for Buckingham Town before deciding to retire in 2005. His attitude and fitness was called into question a lot meaning he didn’t get much games, often failing to turn up for training and putting minimal effort in. I guess he thought he was some kind of a big shot who didn’t need to train because he had a premier league and fa winner’s medal. He came out of retirement in 2007 to join Indonesian club Perseman Manokwari before walking out on his contract 6 months later. He now focuses on his musical exploits along with his love for food, I’d imagine.

Jermaine Pennant

Signed from Notts County for 2million as a 15 year old wasn’t exactly a minor fee back then. A lot was expected of this man. He was once the youngest Arsenal player to score a hat-rick on his full premier league debut, and was even once the youngest player to turn out in an Arsenal shirt (before his record was broken by Cesc Fabregas) but he never quite transformed into that star man we all thought he could be. We can debate all day with regards to why he never made it at Arsenal. How was he meant to get much of a look in when we had Freddie Ljungberg on the right hand side, scoring for fun? This was a period of time where it was near enough impossible for any youngsters to come in and dismantle a regular starter from their position. In August 2003 he went on loan to Leeds United, where he even played in a 4-1 thrashing by Arsenal. Despite getting a few games in 04/05 Wenger decided his time was up and shipped him on loan to Birmingham, where he signed permanently that summer. Perhaps one of the more memorable moments of his career (after the hat-trick of course) was when he played a game whilst on tag for a drink driving conviction. Another English player who decided to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons. He rediscovered some form whilst at Birmingham though, and moved to Liverpool once they were relegated. He enjoyed a relatively successful spell there, winning a community shield and playing a big role in getting Liverpool to a Champions League final. Despite always being a talented player, as his career went on he saw his progress halted by numerous off field problems and attitude issues. He now plays with Stoke City and at 29 years of age, probably won’t get much better.

Jeremie Aliadiere

I remember seeing this guy doing some pretty amazing stuff in an Arsenal top. Another product of the Clairefontaine academy, he was always held in high regards by Arsene Wenger and scored a lot of goals for the youth and reserve teams, still holding the record for the most goals scored in the Fa Youth Cup. It was in the 2003-2004 League Cup run where he really made his name. I mean, as Arsenal fans we all knew who he was but no one else did, until he scored 4 goals in our run to the semi-finals of the competition and was voted young player of the tournament. He did manage to get 10 games in the league so he has a Premier League medal to his name. in 2005, he was sent on loan to Celtic, but despite this Wenger still claimed he had a future, but was being kept out of the team by Thierry Henry & Dennis Bergkamp. After two more loan spells at West Ham and Wolves he made a return to Arsenal where again he featured mainly in the Carling Cup. Perhaps his best game in an Arsenal shirt was the famous 6-3 win at Anfield, where he ran riot and got himself on the scoresheet. All in all he played 37 games for Arsenal, with 25 as sub and scored 9 goals, all of which came in the Carling Cup (shock) apart from one in the league. He moved to Middlesbrough in 2007 and didn’t exactly shine their either, he was even booed by a section of Boro fans at one point before moving to Lorient, who of which he still plays for now. Like Pennant, at 29 years of age, It’s unlikely he’s going to make any sort of major improvement, which is a shame considering the high hopes everyone had for him at Arsenal.

Thanks for reading

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