9 Gunners Rejects Who Prove There’s More To Life Than Arsenal

Yaya Sanogo could soon discover that leaving Arsenal as a youngster isn’t all that bad.

Serge Gnabry in action for Werder Bremen.
Serge Gnabry Not good enough for Arsenal but good enough for Bayern Munich Image Getty

Arsenal is a footballing institution, responsible for producing and nurturing some of the greatest players the Premier League has ever seen.

But even Arsenal can get it wrong sometimes and while there will be many a Gooner glad to see the back of French prospect Yaya Sanogo following four, injury-hit, unproductive years, the case of Serge Gnabry should serve as something of a warning.

Sold by manager Arsene Wenger after essentially being deemed not good enough for the Emirates club, Gnabry has just signed for Bayern Munich following an excellent season with Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga.

It’s proof that there may be more to life than Arsenal, with plenty of first-team rejects currently doing well on the continent and, in a few instances, primed to go even further.

Here are the nine rejects that prove rejection by Arsenal isn’t the be-all and end-all.


Wojciech Szczesny

Wojciech Szczesny in action for Roma.

Once viewed as a goalkeeper with a long-term future at Arsenal, the arrival of Petr Cech saw Szczesny relegated to the bench before being sent out on a two-season loan with Roma in Serie A.

It’s proven to be something of a blessing in disguise for the Pole though with reports suggesting he could be set for a big-money move to Juventus, following a string of impressive displays in Italy.


Dwight Gayle

Dwight Gayle playing for Newcastle.

Gayle’s journey to the top table of English football came in spite of Arsenal, having been released by the Gunners as a teenager.

From there the Walthamstow-born forward went on to non-league Stansted before moving on to Dagenham & Redbridge and eventually Peterborough United where he was spotted by Crystal Palace.

After three up-and-down years at Selhurst Park, Rafa Benitez brought him to Newcastle, where he spearheaded the Toon’s promotion success, scoring 22 goals in 30 league games.


Ovie Ejaria

Ovie Ejaria playing for Liverpool.

Still some way off completely making it as a pro, Ejaria turned his back on Arsenal, the club he supported as a boy and one he spent nine years with as a youth player, to sign for Liverpool back in 2014.

Still only 19, the midfielder caught the eye of Jurgen Klopp last summer, playing in a series of friendlies, and made his Premier League debut that same season. One to watch.


Benik Afobe

Bournemouth forward Benik Afobe.

Granted, Afobe could and probably should have scored a few more goals for Bournemouth last season but, having departed Arsenal for Championship dwellers Wolves in a £2m deal back in 2014, it’s fair to say the decision to leave the Emirates has paid off.

Now a fully-fledged DR Congo international, Afobe’s record of 10 goals in 47 games for Bournemouth needs improvement but he’s likely to get the opportunity to do just that under manager Eddie Howe next term.


Håvard Nordtveit

West Ham midfielder Håvard Nordtveit.

The Norwegian defensive midfielder failed to make a single Premier League appearance for Arsenal in his four years on the club’s books, despite manager Arsene Wenger shelling out £2m to bring the player to North London from Haugesund.

Eventually sold to Bundesliga giants Borussia Monchengladbach for a paltry £800,000 in December 2010, Nordtveit went on to make 181 appearances for the German club, scoring 12 goals, before moving to West Ham on a free transfer. He’s fared well enough since.


Oğuzhan Özyakup

Turkey international Oğuzhan Özyakup.

The closest Arsenal has to their very own Paul Pogba story, Özyakup only managed two appearances for the Gunners – both in the League Cup, bagging one assist – before heading to Turkish giants Besiktas for another bargain fee of €500,000.

In five full seasons with the Turkish club, he’s won two Super Lig titles, playing 181 games, scoring 27 goals and providing 41 assists while also breaking into the Turkey national team. Though rumours of an Arsenal return persist, a Premier League move elsewhere looks more likely.


Nacer Barazite

FC Utrecht's Nacer Barazite.

Another Arsenal youngster who failed to make the grade, Barazite left the Emirates and headed to Austria Wien in January 2011 on a permanent two-year deal.

He didn’t stick around for long, with a return of 12 goals in 34 games prompting AS Monaco to sign the attacking midfielder and supporting striker almost exactly one year later.

Though things didn’t work out at Monaco during a difficult time on and off the pitch for the club, Barazite appears back on safer ground in his homeland of Holland with FC Utrecht.


Rui Fonte

Rui Fonte in action for Braga.

Jose Fonte’s less successful brother has enjoyed a pretty varied career already for a forward who is still only 27.

Released by Arsenal as a youngster, Fonte has played for Sporting Lisbon, Espanyol and Benfica in the years since but finally appears to have settled with Braga, where he’s managed a commendable 15 goals in 41 games. Alas, a call-up to the senior Portugal national side still evades him.


Isaac Hayden

Newcastle's Isaac Hayden.

Another Rafa Benitez signing brought to the club from Arsenal after impressing on loan at Hull the previous year, Hayden has proven a revelation for Newcastle and played an instrumental role in their successful Championship campaign.

Capable of playing in central defence or central midfield, Hayden also has the capacity to operate as a right-back and looks destined for big things in the beautiful game. This could be the one Wenger comes to regret most!

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