Arsenal’s first starting XI under Mikel Arteta is completely different to the one that will run out against West Ham United on Boxing Day. It’s four years to the day since the Spaniard took control of the Gunners for the very first time after leaving his assistant manager’s role with Manchester City to coach on his own. The game on the south coast finished 1-1, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring the first goal of the Arteta era, but his starting XI is nowhere to be seen now…
The only players to survive from that opening fixture are Bukyo Saka, who was operating as a left-back, and Reiss Nelson. Aaron Ramsdale was also on the pitch, but he was in goal for the opposition, not the North Londoners. Express Sport takes a look at Arteta’s first XI and where they are now…
German goalkeeper Leno was a year-and-a-half into a five-year deal at the Emirates when Arteta arrived. He survived between the sticks until the start of the 2021-22 season when Ramsdale was signed from Sheffield United and made a move across the capital to Fulham in August 2022. He has been one of the best keepers in the Premier League this season for the Cottagers.
The Arsenal academy graduate made 20 Premier League appearances in Arteta’s first season but after seeing his opportunities reduced over the next two seasons, a succession of loan spells ensued before he joined Ligue 1 side Lyon last summer on a free transfer.
The no-nonsense Greek centre-back made 44 appearances for Arsenal under Arteta, but after he was left out of the Gunners’ Europa League squad at the start of the 2020-21 season, he moved to Olympiacos the following January. That was after his contract was cancelled by ‘mutual consent’. He now plays for Real Betis.
The Brazilian, a former Chelsea defender, was a surprise signing for the Gunners but was as unpredictable as ever. He won the FA Cup with the Gunners in 2020 but left a year later when his contract expired, returning to Brazil to play for Flamengo.
Arsenal’s talismanic winger hasn’t always been the catalyst of the Gunners’ attack. At the age of 18 he was playing left-back. Clearly he was too good to remain in such an unglamorous position and has now developed into one of the most important attacking players in the country for both his club and England.
The Uruguayan midfielder played a season and a half under Arteta before going on loan to Atletico Madrid and Fiorentina in successive seasons. With no way back into the Arsenal side he left for Turkish giants Galatasaray in August 2022 for a reported fee of £5.2m.
Having failed to impress Arsenal fans in his early years, club captain Xhaka was a player reborn under Arteta, becoming a key part of his midfield. He came close to winning the Premier League with the Gunners last season but it was not to be. The Swiss international joined Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen last summer for £21.4m and is flying in the Bundesliga.
The 24-year-old forward is the only player in Arteta’s starting XI four years ago who is still at the club apart from Saka. He has made six Premier League appearances this season but they have all been off the bench. He scored an iconic late winning goal against Bournemouth last season but it sadly did not help lead to a league title.
Once considered one of the most talented midfielders in world football, he struggled to impress Arteta and was routinely substituted. After drawing criticism for reportedly refusing to accept a 12.5 per cent pay cut during the Covid-19 pandemic, he was later omitted from Arsenal’s 25-man Premier League squad at the start of the 2020-21 season. The following January he joined Turkish club Fenerbahce on a free transfer but he retired in March this year.
Scorer of the first goal in the Arteta era, Aubameyang became the Gunner’s captain and went on to score the winning goal against Chelsea in the 2020 FA Cup final. But disciplinary issues tested the patience of the Spaniard who stripped Aubameyang of the captaincy midway through the 2021-22 season. He left for Barcelona at the end of the next transfer window and is now at Marseille, where he has scored 12 goals in 21 games at the age of 34.
The Frenchman was a regular in Arteta’s side and scored double figures for Arsenal in four consecutive seasons, winning the FA Cup in 2020. He left for Lyon in the summer of 2022 when his contract expired. Now 32, he has six goals in 12 matches for the relegation-threatened Ligue 1 strugglers so far this season.