10 most successful academy products in Arsenal history

Arsenal’s Hale End Academy is one of the most famous producers of talent in English football. It has produced some absolute gems over the years, some of which you’ll see below. Most recently, the academy has helped to drag Arsenal out of an incredibly dire situation to make the future seem far less bleak than it originally looked.

Of course, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for youth players to break into first teams around English football. And that’s thanks to the depth of competition that the transfer market adds in a league where even mid-table clubs can splash the cash. But that hasn’t stopped Mikel Arteta from turning to those closest to home when it comes to improving his squad at times, however.

With that said, we’ve ranked the 10 most successful academy products in Arsenal’s history.

10) Michael Thomas

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01: Arsenal player Michael Thomas pictured at the pre season photocall at Highbury ahead of the 1988/89 season in August 1988 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Gatt/Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive)Look away now, Liverpool fans who are old enough to remember a certain goal in the 1988-89 season.

Michael Thomas could have finished his career after scoring in the last-minute of that season to seal the 1988-89 league title for Arsenal; his legacy would still forever be amongst the best in the club’s history.

His career can be looked back on with irony, too, as he went onto play for Liverpool.

But his most telling contribution earns him a place on this list, and in Arsenal folklore.

9) David Rocastle

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 30: An image of former Arsenal player David Rocastle is seen on the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Reading at Emirates Stadium on March 30, 2013 in London, England. David Rocastle died on March 31st 2001 aged 33. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Taken far too soon at the age of just 33, David Rocastle’s legacy as one of the greatest academy products to ever play for Arsenal very much remains intact to this day.

He played a crucial role in the club’s 1991 title win under George Graham, and starred alongside the likes of Paul Merson and Ian Wright.

Now, he is immortalised on the edge of the Emirates Stadium, with a mural of him forever reminding Gunners fans of how good he was.

A superb footballer.

8) Nicolas Anelka

17 Mar 1998: Nicolas Anelka of Arsenal celebrates during the FA Cup quarter-final replay against West Ham United at Upton Park in London. Arsenal won the match 4-3 on penalties. Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport

Nicolas Anelka won everything there was to win in club football, whether that was at Arsenal, Chelsea, Real Madrid, or Juventus.

He seemed to hit every height possible. Graduating from the Arsenal academy, the Frenchman won one FA Cup, and one league title at the club.

He would go on to win yet more honours at Chelsea, including the Premier League’s Golden Boot award, before ending his career in nomadic fashion. 

He would also play for the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Shanghai Shenhua and West Bromwich Albion before retiring.

7) Andy Cole

Although Andy Cole didn’t find his success at Arsenal, he did come through their academy, before going onto write himself into the Premier League history books at Newcastle United and Manchester United.

By the time that his career came to an end, Cole had scored 187 Premier League goals to put himself third in the all-time list.

Cole did actually play once for Arsenal’s first-team but he was loaned to Fulham and Bristol City before being sold to the latter in 1992.

It is from Bristol that Newcastle signed Cole, and he went on to show the Gunners exactly what they were missing.

6) Paul Merson 

Paul Merson in action for Aston Villa's Masters team

Paul Merson, the magic man himself, had quite the career at Arsenal.

In total, he made 376 appearances for The Gunners, scoring 87 goals, and assisting a further 28.

Meanwhile, when it came to trophies, Merson was not left short of success, winning two league titles, one FA Cup, one Community Shield, and one League Cup.

A sorely underrated footballer who is now perhaps best known for his punditry work.

5) Serge Gnabry 

Bayern Munich winger Serge Gnabry celebrates

Like Cole, Serge Gnabry’s success has come after his time in the Arsenal academy.

The German winger remains one of the club’s greatest regrets, as he failed to break into the first team, before exploding into life in the Bundesliga.

Now at Bayern Munich, Gnabry has won it all, from a number of league titles, to a Champions League trophy. 

He would fit right into Mikel Arteta’s team right now, too, which makes it all the more painful.

4) Ray Parlour 


Making an incredible total of 446 appearances, and winning three league titles, including in 2004 as part of the Arsenal Invincibles, there is no doubting the fact that Ray Parlour is one of the most successful academy graduates to come out of Hale End.

He completed everything possible when it came to domestic honours, and will always have a place in history for that.

Parlour did not end his career as a one club man but he was never the same after leaving the Gunners for Middlesbrough; he also played for Hull City before hanging up his boots forever.

What a player at his best.

3) Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole Arsenal

Ashley Cole remains arguably the best left-back that English football has ever seen.

He played a vital role in the Arsenal invincible side, before also having incredible success at Chelsea, where he won more league titles alongside a Champions League trophy.

Cole was also a regular in the England team that featured the Golden Generation, although they were not able to end all of those years of hurt.

The fact is, it may be a while before we see such an all-rounder at left-back. 

2) Cesc Fabregas


Cesc Fabregas is still far too underrated for our liking.

He is one of the best passers that the Premier League has ever seen, and highlighted just how good he is at both Arsenal and Chelsea.

By the time that he left English football, the Spaniard had assisted a stunning total of 111 assists to put him second on the all-time list.

Upon leaving for Barcelona, he left a mighty large hole for the Gunners to fill.

1) Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Tony Adams, Mr Arsenal, is perhaps the true definition of perseverance with several setbacks throughout his career, including prison time for a drunk driving offence, before he eventually stepped up to another level under Wenger – as most Arsenal players did.

By the end of his career, Adams had won four league titles, including two Premier Leagues to cement his place amongst the best defenders to ever play for Arsenal.

He is now regarded as one of the finest centre-backs we’ve seen in the Premier League, and is forever included in all-time XIs featuring Gunners players.

A true Arsenal legend.

So, there you have it, our list of Arsenal’s greatest ever academy graduates. Do you agree with our list? Or, do you believe that we’ve missed some players out? Let us know in the comments!

Something tells us that it won’t be too long before we see the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe on this list. They are simply too good not to write themselves into the Arsenal history books. As Arteta continues to take The Gunners back towards the summit of English football, the academy duo will likely continue to play a crucial role.

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