Ranking Bukayo Saka and Arsenal’s best 10 Hale End graduates
No Arsenal player will have featured in so many successive top-flight encounters for the club in this modern era, with the last time he failed to feature in a game back in May 2021, when he was left on the bench against Newcastle in a 2-0 victory.
Saka has been symbolic of Arsenal’s resurrection under Mikel Arteta, typifying not only the technical quality that the Spaniard has instilled in this new generation of Gunners but also the type of spirit that has allowed them to challenge Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.
But where does he rank among the club’s best academy graduates?
Using the SciSkill rating from data analytics experts SciSports, which is constructed using hundreds of in-game data points, here is FootballTransfers’ ranking of the best 10 players to come through at Hale End who are presently playing.
The best Hale End graduates
10. Eberechi Eze – SciSkill 87.8
A real breakout star in the Premier League with Crystal Palace last season, Eze netted 10 league goals for the Eagles as they charged to safety. Remarkably, his first of the campaign had arrived in October, highlighting just how strong his level was in the second part of the season.
Eze, who finds himself being watched by the Premier League’s biggest sides once again, has gone on to win two England caps, having been in the Hale End academy from 2006-11 before being released aged 13.
9.Alex Iwobi – SciSkill 88.4
Although Alex Iwobi was never a regular for Arsenal, he still managed to make 100 Premier League appearances for the Gunners over a four-year spell after breaking into the first team.
The Nigeria international, who won the FA Cup at the Emirates Stadium, has since gone on to repeat that feat at Everton and now play with Fulham.
8. Emile Smith Rowe – SciSkill 89.6
One of the great puzzles of Arsenal’s current squad is where Emile Smith Rowe fits into Mikel Arteta’s plans. Three times capped by England, the 23-year-old has become almost a forgotten figure at the Emirates Stadium after being tipped for a summer move.
Looked like becoming a major star at one point but has been increasingly peripheral after a groin injury last season. Will surely come again – but will that be at Arsenal or elsewhere?
7. Hector Bellerin – SciSkill 100
Started life in Barcelona’s academy before copying the example of Cesc Fabregas by moving from La Masia to Hail End, where he completed his schooling and eventually won first-team honours with Arsenal.
Was around the Gunners’ first team for around a decade but has struggled to settle since leaving the Emirates. Now 28, he has played for Barcelona, Sporting CP and Real Betis in 2023. He is hoping to establish himself with the Seville side, where he previously spent a season on loan.
6. Wojciech Szczesny – SciSkill 100.4
Spent three years in the Hale End academy before ultimately breaking into the Arsenal side, where he had a somewhat mixed time. Szczesny had opportunities to make himself Arsene Wenger’s No.1 goalkeeper but never quite inspired the confidence to make the role permanent, not helping himself in 2015 when he was fined for smoking in the changing rooms after a loss to Southampton.
Now 33, he has enjoyed a strong period in his career in Serie A, first with Roma and then with Juventus, where he continues to be first pick.
5. Ismael Bennacer – SciSkill 104.8
Bennacer spent two years at the Arsenal academy but failed to make a Premier League appearance for the club, featuring just once for the first team at the Emirates.
When he departed in 2017, he joined Serie A side Empoli, where he would start to realise his undoubted potential. Moved to AC Milan in 2019 and has now established himself at one of Europe’s elite clubs.
4. Emi Martinez – SciSkill 108.2
One that got away for Arsenal? Martinez was frustrated by never being given the responsibility of being No.1 and after a series of loan deals went to Aston Villa in 2020.
The Argentine is now recognised as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, with his performance in the 2022 World Cup final against France career defining. Made a title-winning stop from Randal Kolo Muani late in that encounter to play a key role in Lionel Messi eventually claiming the title.
3. Donyell Malen – SciSkill 108.3
When Jadon Sancho left Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United, the Bundesliga side turned to Malen as their solution, indicating just how highly he was rated. Malen, 24, has not touched the heights that Sancho managed in Germany yet, but he continues to play at a very good standard.
Arsenal sold Malen to PSV in August 2017, having failed to make an appearance for the first team in any competition. He had been in the Hale End academy for two years.
2. Bukayo Saka – SciSkill 119.5
Saka has been the main success story of the Arsenal academy in recent seasons – at least with regards the Gunners getting the most from their investment. At 22 years old, he has over 140 Premier League appearances to his name and already boasts 30 England caps.
The winger has genuine Ballon d’Or potential.
1. Serge Gnabry – SciSkill 124.7
Once told by Tony Pulis that he was “not at the required level” to play for West Brom, Gnabry has become one of the most decorated wingers in the modern game. Indeed, the 28-year-old has won just about every major trophy on offer, including the Champions League and Club World Cup.
Bayern Munich’s Player of the Season in 2018/19, Arsenal nurtured the player in their academy in the 2011/12 season before he graduated to the first-team squad, but he managed only 18 appearances across three seasons before moving to Werder Bremen and, subsequently, FCB.