Arsenal have watched numerous youngsters leave over the years and go on to enjoy successful careers elsewhere.
Leeds United defender Luke Ayling has fought his way back from Arsenal rejection to become a Premier League footballer.
There’s plenty of other examples, but there’s also been lots who have fallen off the radar as quickly as they emerged.
Benik Afobe took the Ayling route and worked his way up from the Championship to play regularly in the Premier League for Bournemouth.
After sealing his Premier League move to the Cherries from Wolves in 2016, Afobe scored three times in his first four games.
During those early goal-laden days at Bournemouth Arsene Wenger admitted his pride in the one-time Arsenal prodigy’s rise back through the leagues.
“He was very young, he had big competition in front of him, players like [Robin] Van Persie,” Wenger explained. “I gave him the opportunity to go and play somewhere else.
“In the end you influence people to give them success. If they can’t do it for us and can do it somewhere else, we are very happy for them. Benik Afobe has done very well and exceeded expectations.”
The goals dried up for Afobe at Bournemouth and before long he was back in the Championship with Wolves, where a bizarre turn of events occurred in summer 2018.
After helping Wolves secure a return to the top flight, Afobe’s loan move was made permanent for £10million. However, within 11 days Afobe was sold.
Speaking to The Beautiful Game podcast, Afobe said: “When the season finished I got a phone call saying, ‘Wolves want to sign you’. Obviously they’re in the Prem, I love Wolves and enjoyed my time there the first time and the second time with Nuno.
“So I’ve signed the contract and then a couple of days later I’m getting a message saying, ‘I think Nuno wants to sell you’. I was like, ‘What!? Have you got the right player?’
“They went, ‘He’s bringing in (Raul) Jimenez’. At the time Jimenez wasn’t really a bad boy like he is now. ‘He’s saying that you’re not going to play next season’.
“So I said, ‘What if I’m training really well, I’m on it and one of the best players in training, I still won’t play?’ He said, ‘No, you’re not going to play at all. You’re going to be with the under-23s.’
“I left Bournemouth because I wasn’t playing week in, week out. Callum Wilson and Joshua King were playing at the time. I was at Wolves the first time as the main man, with (Nouha) Dicko and (Bakary) Sako, doing my thing, to be sitting on the bench, it was foreign to me.
“Even though I wanted to be at Wolves because we were in the Premier League, I didn’t want to not play. He said Jimenez would be playing every game. At the time I’m thinking, ‘This guy coming in hasn’t really done anything yet’. He’s a joke now, he’s a big player – but at the time he hadn’t done anything.
“I was like, ‘No way am I just going to be on the bench’, and he said, ‘You won’t even be on the bench sometimes’. This is what the chief executive was telling me at the time. Maybe it was just politics but at the time I was thinking, ‘This is mad’.”
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Afobe joined Stoke for £12m and was expected to fire the Potters to the Premier League. It didn’t quite work out like that and Afobe was loaned to Bristol City in 2019.
Three goals in his first five games suggested Afobe was back in business but the striker suffered a dreaded ACL injury just six games into his loan move and didn’t play for another 10 months.
Afobe returned to parent club Stoke last summer only to discover that he wasn’t part of manager Michael O’Neill’s immediate plans and again headed out on loan, this time to Turkey with Trabzonspor.
Four goals in 26 appearances later, Afobe is already looking towards next season.
“Only God knows the future,” he said. “I always have this conversation with my mum, to be honest.
“I’ve still got two years after this season at Stoke. Everyone forgets I’m still on loan from Stoke. Trabzonspor has been good for me, but if I’m honest to myself I think I want to come back to England.
“But four months is a long time in a footballer’s career so anything can happen. We change like the weather. One day I’m like, ‘Mum, you know what, I miss England’, then other days I’ll be like, ‘Mum, I’m comfy, I’m comfy’.
“To be honest, we’re like kids. When you’re scoring goals, you’re playing, training has gone well, you could say to me, ‘Do this…’ and I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, OK’ – but when things aren’t going great we’re grumpy.
“We’ve always had things our own way and all of us are spoilt. I’m just taking it month by month and giving myself the best chance to train well.
“A lot of people have forgotten about my injuries. I’ve only been back for six months now and when you do an ACL it takes ages.”
Listen to Afobe’s full interview on The Beautiful Game Podcast here.