By 90Min
September 23, 2019

At just 18 years and 17 days old, Bukayo Saka this weekend became the sixth youngest Arsenal player ever to play in the Premier League, and the third youngest to start a game. He's in some pretty decent company. 

It is, of course, quite easy to get carried away when a young player emerges onto the scene with the level of maturity and composure he has shown, but what does history tell us about the Arsenal stars who made their league bows at similarly tender ages? 

Here, we've qualified the nine others who make up the ten youngest Gunners of the Premier League era, so you can make up your own mind about his chances of making the grade. 


Alex Song (18yrs 10d, vs Everton 2005)

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Initially joining Arsenal on loan as one of Arsene Wenger's post-Invincibles signings, Song would eventually sign on from Bastia for a minuscule £1m.

He proved to be excellent value for money as well, as between his league debut in September 2005 and his departure for Barcelona in 2012, he made over 200 appearances for the club and established himself as one of the division's most efficient holding midfielders.

He went on to make 65 appearances for Barça, winning the 2013 La Liga title, before winding his career down with spells with West Ham, Rubin Kazan and FC Sion. 


Chuba Akpom (17yrs 11m 10d, vs Sunderland 2013)

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Having been with Arsenal from the age of six, Chuba Akpom was once the great white hope of the academy but failed to ever make a substantial mark on the first team. 

Now resurrecting his career in Greece with PAOK, the striker spent the vast majority of his Arsenal career out on various ill-fated loan spells with everyone from Brentford to Sint-Truiden. He scored a grand total of nine goals across his 80 appearances on temporary spells away from the club, while failing to find the net in his 12 appearances for Arsenal - the first of which coming from the bench shortly before his 18th birthday. 

Since leaving in 2018, he has since scored nine in 33 for the Greek Super League champions, and still only 23, he has a good chance of making a career of it yet. 

His move to West Ham in 2022 will be one to keep an eye on.


Aaron Ramsey (17y 8m 18d, vs Blackburn 2008)

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Arguably the biggest success story on the list, Ramsey signed for Wenger's Arsenal as a 17-year-old that had already made a serious impact in his 21 senior appearances for Cardiff in the Championship and was gradually bled into the Gunners side throughout his first season in London.

It wasn't all plain-sailing from there, that leg break picked up at Stoke setting his career back a year or so as he was loaned out to Nottingham Forest and back to Cardiff to find his form, but over the piece he would go on to become an Arsenal legend - winning two FA Cups and making close to 400 appearances.

Having failed to properly settle into the post-Wenger era, he would leave on a free for Juventus in the summer and found the net in his first start at the weekend against Hellas Verona.


Theo Walcott (17y 5m 3d, vs Aston Villa 2006)

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Another trademark Wenger signing, Walcott was picked up after playing just half a season of senior football with Southampton for a then-lofty fee that rose to £12m.

And while his career wouldn't quite live up to its early promise, if Saka's goes on to run parallel then few at the Emirates will be complaining. The former England winger, now plying his trade at Everton, scored his first Arsenal goal in a League Cup final against Chelsea in 2007, and never looked back. 

He isn't quite remembered as one of the greats despite his early promise, with his generation of players failing to win much at either club or international level, but his blistering pace on the wing was for a while synonymous with Arsenal. He did end up scoring over 100 goals in almost 400 appearances. 


Gavin McGowan (17y 3m 20d, vs Sheffield Wednesday 1993)

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Yeah, I know. Who? 

This man did exist, according to various internet accounts of his existence, making seven appearances for Arsenal between 1992-98, before moving to Luton Town in the Championship, where he would start well, but eventually come undone by injuries. 

He ceased playing at some point between 2001-07, when he ventured into PE teaching, according to his Wikipedia


Ainsley Maitland-Niles (17y 3m 14d, vs Newcastle 2014)

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The sole representative on this list still at the club, Maitland-Niles has proved effective as a utility man over the last few seasons - perhaps to the point that his versatility has limited his ability to really showcase his ability.

Most of his football has come as cover for the injured Hector Bellerin at right-back, but he has nonetheless impressed with his attitude and work-rate - even if his defensive abilities often leave a lot to be desired. A lot.

If Bellerin can get fit and stay fit, Maitland-Niles' prospects of keeping the right-back slot are slim, but his versatility means he will likely remain an important part of Unai Emery's plans.


Cesc Fabregas (17y 3m 11d, vs Everton 2004)

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Fabregas was an Arsenal player in the Invincibles season but wasn't awarded a winners' medal since he didn't play a league game in the 2003/04 campaign - featuring only in the domestic cups in his first season since joining from Barcelona's academy.

He would have to wait until the following campaign to launch his stellar career, but the midfielder would go on to play a starring role in the years to come, starting the 2005 FA Cup Final as the Gunners emerged victorious. After leaving the club in 2011, he would go on to become a central player for his beloved Barcelona, and later controversially - yet successfully - returned to England with Chelsea.

He now plays for struggling Monaco in Ligue 1, having joined in January. 


Serge Gnabry (17y 3m 6d, vs Norwich 2012)

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Gnabry's promise never really came to life at Arsenal despite three years of trying, and an underwhelming loan spell with West Brom in 2015, in which he failed to force his way into Tony Pulis' plans, spelled the end of his Arsenal career. 

He was discarded to Werder Bremen for £5m that summer, and sensing perhaps it was his last chance at the big-time, he took the opportunity with both hands. 11 goals in 27 appearances for the Bundesliga side rapidly established him as one of German football's most exciting talents, and he would soon earn himself a move to Bayern Munich.

He would impress in a further loan spell with Hoffenheim, and is now a key player for both Bayern and his country - an eventuality few at Arsenal saw coming four years ago. 


Jack Wilshere (16y 8m 12d, vs Blackburn 2008)

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An undeniably talented player whose career finds itself hamstrung only by the vast catalogue of injuries he suffered, Wilshere was thrown in at the deep end as a 16-year-old back in 2008, and the early part of his Arsenal days suggested a player who would go on to reach the very top of the game. 

It didn't quite pan out that way, but like many of the players in the Arsenal teams he played with between 2008-2018, he remains highly thought-of thanks to the memories he helped to create and the sumptuous football he so often contributed to. 

He now plays for West Ham after briefly threatening to revive his Arsenal career in Wenger's last season, and has featured in three of the Hammers' five league matches so far this season. 

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