When a whistle blew on the 23rd September 2008 it signified both the end of a football match and the beginning of a frenzy. People were talking infront of cameras, journalists were scrawling onto their notepads and online forums were alive with activity. The news? Arsenal had defeated a Championship club by 6 goals to nil with a team that had an average age of 19; everyone was looking for superlatives and comparisons to describe what they had just seen. 4 years on from that night, I feel it is time to look back on what people wrote and said about those players in action. Using articles from the BBC, the Sun, the Mirror and the Guardian I will try and relive that ecstasy and then question if those players fulfilled their potential.

We'll start with a quote from Kevin Blackwell, the Sheffield United manager. He said that 'there are also four or five top-class English kids in there so that can only bode well for the future of the national team'. He wasn't the only one to believe those players could make it as top level footballers; the Sun said this was 'the next generation of superstars' and the Mirror asked 'With talent like this and Wenger's genius, who needs a billionaire?'. A fan claimed on 606 that Wenger was a 'genius' and said 'for Arsenal, the future will consist of the best footballing team to watch EVER'. Bringing it back to the present, I don't think anyone can honestly say they haven't recently thought, typed, said or even shouted "Spend some money Arsene!". We'll start with looking at the English players Blackwell mentioned; who are they? Where are they know? Have they made it at Arsenal?

Jack Wilshere

There's no need to say who he is. He was picked out as a star for the future and it was said that he 'has the talent, vision and skill to emulate Fabregas'. You can honestly say he hasn't disappointed. He didn't play a minute of last season and will miss the start of this one, but we hope he is back to the level he was at a few years ago. A definite star of Arsenal's (and England's) midfield for years to come.

Where is he now? Arsenal's treatment table. 

Has he made it at Arsenal? A definite yes.

Kieran Gibbs

A left-back with an England cap to his name, Gibbs was named as Arsenal's first choice left-back when Clichy left but injuries disrupted his season. He had previously been used as cover for the french defender but the jury is still out on him as a top level footballer. A.Cole and Baines sit ahead of him for the England spot; I doubt he has what it takes to assert himself on this level. No doubt he is a good player though, maybe mid-table premiership is his future.

Where is he now? Arsenal.

Has he made it at Arsenal? Not yet.

Gavin Hoyte

Hoyte's appearance at right-back in this game was one of his few games in an Arsenal shirt. He has been loaned out across the divisions and was released at the end of the season.

Where is he now? Dagenham and Redbridge.

Has he made it at Arsenal? No.

Mark Randall

A similar story here, only given a handful of games before being loaned out to the lower divisons. When his contract ran out in 2011 he left and joined Chesterfield, where he described his recent loan moves as 'disheartening'. He still hopes to reach further things but for now he's another lower league footballer.

Where is he now? Chesterfield.

Has he made it at Arsenal? No.

So these are the four players touted as future England players. Only two have played for the national team (still an impressive achievement) but there can be little argument that only Wilshere comes close to living up to the tag of 'future superstars' that the team was branded. Two players have pretty much disappeared and Gibbs is at a point where he has to prove he has what it takes. So, onto the rest.

Carlos Vela

Like Wilshere, he was singled out for praise by the media after scoring a hat-trick against Sheffield United. Described as 'something special' and the new Thierry Henry, journalists thought he was the reason Wenger hadn't bought a new striker. High praise indeed, but its safe to say he hasn't reached those heights. He has however collected 35 caps for Mexico so he isn't a bad player. His career has mostly consisted of loan spells (starting to sound familiar?) mostly to Spain where he now resides after making his most recent loan move, to Real Sociedad, a permanent one. A transfer fee of £4 million has been claimed, not quite the fee that the journalists of 4 years ago would have thought (he was described as a £20 million player).

Where is he now? Real Sociedad.

Has he made it at Arsenal? No.

Nicklas Bendtner

Ah, Nicklas Bendtner. The player who thought he was the best but has been proved to be one of the rest. He certainly believes he has the ability that was described of him 4 years ago, but he has yet to show it to anyone else. In his defence, he has made 99 appearances for Arsenal and is a regular for his national side but it is clear that he is not a world class footballer. He has built up a reputation for making some really bad misses (my personal favourite howler of his was when he stopped Fabregas scoring). He failed to really impress on loan at Sunderland last season and looks to be leaving Arsenal soon.                                                                                                

Where is he now? Arsenal.

Has he made it at Arsenal? Some could say yes, but I've got to say no.

Alex Song

He wasn't singled out for praise in this game, or for many other games afterwards. However, Alex Song has slowly grown into the Arsenal team and has only recently started to turn heads. Known as a tough tackling defensive player, he has begun to show a passing range that is rare for his kind of player. No doubt another permanent fixture in the Arsenal XI for years to come.

Where is he now? Arsenal.

Has he made it at Arsenal? Definitely.

Fran Merida

Given the same match rating as Wilshere by the Sun for the Sheffield United match, Merida has failed to reach the same heights as the Englishman. He only managed a handful of appearances for the Gunners while also having a loan move to Spain which is where he eventually moved to Atletico Madrid. He was released by Atletico at the end of the season and has been signed by Hercules.

Where is he now? Hercules.

Has he made it at Arsenal? No.

Aaron Ramsey

A player who at one point was probably more well known for his injury than his footballing ability (and to Football Manager players, the only player with a potential of -10), Ramsey is developing into another player who looks to be a mainstay in the Arsenal team. Despite being criticised at times last season for his performances, Ramsey's potential has rarely been in doubt since his £5million move in 2008. His injury no doubt halted his development and he went on loan twice to Championship clubs in order to get back to his best. At the tender age of 21, he is captain of the Welsh national team and looks to have a bright future ahead.

Where is he now? Arsenal.

Has he made it at Arsenal? Not quite yet.

Lukasz Fabianski

It's not easy to make a breakthrough at a big team as a young goalkeeper; and at the age of 27 you could say Fabianski has missed his chance. He has been the second choice goalkeeper for a long time and a lot of blunders when being given a chance make it unlikely for the Pole to become number one. He has declared that he's going to fight with Szczesny for the top spot but I think that would be a one sided contest if ever I saw one.

Where is he now? Arsenal.

Has he made it at Arsenal? Not made himself number one, so have to say no.

Johan Djourou

He's still at Arsenal but I've seen few signs that he is at that level. No doubt a useful utility player, being able to play centre back and right back makes him perfect cover for those positions. However, I think being cover is the best he can hope for. His performances on loan at Birmingham suggest he is a good premier league defender but if Wenger had a full squad of players to choose from the Swiss international would not be in the team.

Where is he now? Arsenal.

Has he made it at Arsenal? Difficult to say, I would edge towards yes but he is by no means a Champions League player.


So to quickly summarise the points being made here, 7 of the players who started the match 4 years ago are still at Arsenal. There have also been a combined 21 loans between them (almost 2 each) and I would say 3 of the 7 players at Arsenal have truly 'made it' there. 8 of the players have represented their countries and we even have a national team captain in there!

Hindsight is a lovely thing

Looking back at the quotes and the articles taken from the days following that match, we can see that the team as a collective did not fulfil their potential. However in Wilshere, Ramsey and Song we not only have 3 first-teamers at Arsenal we also have a midfield trio that could well be Arsenal's midfield for years to come. We can't expect a reality that the 606 contributer said; becoming the best team to watch of all time isn't an easy thing to do. We can however question the likes of Carlos Vela, who recieved fantastic reviews and even comparisons to Thierry Henry for his hat-trick. He had given himself a platform with which to build a very successful Arsenal career but that night was most probably the highlight of his time at the Emirates. For me, the number of loan moves for the players is surprising. Wenger is constantly praised for his development of players but it seems like he treats them just like other teams treat their youth players. A surprising stat is that the players who made the most loan moves (Randall, Hoyte and Vela all with 4) are no longer at the club. So maybe a hint that constantly loaning players is bad for their development?

They didn't become superstars, but thats too much to expect

Ofcourse its too much to ask all of these players to become world class stars, so they were in reality never going to match the expectations of them. It is however very impressive that 7 of the players are still at the club and that Arsenal have 3 fantastic first team players that were in that team. They have also had good service from the likes of Bendtner and could well make a profit from them. Overall you have to say that this team was a collective success, its just a pity that nobody told Barcelona that Arsenal were meant to be the best team to watch of all time.

I don't claim to be an Arsenal fan so you may have better knowledge on these players than me. If you disagree with my verdicts on some of the players please don't hesitate to comment. I would also love to know what you make of the information I have put forward.

Some relevant links

Highlights of the match: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYS3W02kkLE

BBC article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/league_cup/7626710.stm

Sun article: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/football/1725725/Arsenal-6-Sheffield-United-0-Arsene-Wenger-celebrates-after-Arsenals-youngest-ever-team-wins-Carling-Cup-match.html

Mirror article: http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/carling-cup-arsenal-6-0-sheffield-739478

Guardian article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2008/sep/24/carlingcup.arsenal

Bendtner stops Fabregas from scoring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruD2hult4P4