As Arsenal prepare to face Crystal Palace in the league for the first time since they first named a 16-man squad without a single British player, we see where those players are now.
On Monday 14 February 2005, Arsenal named a 16-man squad entirely bereft of British talent for the first time in their history. At the time, that fact made almost as many headlines as their 5-1 victory over Crystal Palace. But as the two sides prepare to meet in the league for the first time in eight-and-a-half years, what became of those 16 men?
Jens Lehmann: The German ‘keeper left Arsenal for Stuttgart in 2008, where he would later retire. However, an injury crisis at the Gunners prompted Lehmann to return, where he would ultimately make his 200th appearance for Arsenal in a 3-1 victory against Blackpool. After which he retired…again.
Lauren: After leaving Arsenal in 2006, the Cameroon defender played for Portsmouth and Cordoba. He retired in 2010.
Kolo Toure: The Ivorian centre-back moved from the Emirates to the Etihad in 2009, and after four seasons at Manchester City he moved to Liverpool this summer. He continues to impress, and his early-season form suggests his free transfer was something of a master-stroke.
Pascal Cygan: Cygan left Arsenal in 2006, joining Villarreal. After three years the Frenchman moved to newly-promoted Cartagena on a one-year deal. When that expired, the 37-year-old finally called it a day.
Gael Clichy: The left-back remained at Arsenal until 2011, at which point he joined Manchester City. Now competing with Aleksandar Kolarov for a starting birth, Clichy continues to impress with his pace and technical ability.
Robert Pires: Like many of this Arsenal team, Pires left the club in 2006. He played for Villarreal for four years and would then return to England for an ill-fated spell with Aston Villa. He has since retired from the game.
Patrick Vieira: Yet another Arsenal player to ultimately end up at the Etihad, Vieira did it the long way. Leaving at the end of the season in which they beat Palace 5-1, the Frenchman signed for Juventus. He would later move to Inter Milan and ultimately to City. He is now the Blues’ EDS coach.
Edu: Like Vieira, Edu left Arsenal in the summer of 2005, and like many of his teammates, he made his way to Spain. After four years at Valencia, the Brazilian returned to his homeland to play for his first club Corinthians. Now retired, he is the club’s director of football.
LIVE Premier League match alerts to your phone - goals, red cards, half and full-time scores
Jose Antonio Reyes: The Spaniard failed to consistently hit the heights in North London, and following a loan spell with Real Madrid, Reyes made the permanent move to Atletico Madrid in 2007. Another loan spell, this time to Benfica, was thrown in for good measure, before he returned to his first club Sevilla, where he has a contract until 2015.
Dennis Bergkamp: One of Arsenal’s greatest ever players, the Dutchman retired from football in 2006, after 11 glorious years in North London.
Thierry Henry: Henry left Arsenal in 2007 to join Barcelona. He later moved to New York Red Bulls, where he remains to this day. He did however enjoy a brief reunion with Arsene Wenger during a loan spell, and rumours remain that it may not have been the last.
Cesc Fabregas: Now at Barcelona, the midfielder and Arsenal are a headline-writer’s dream come true. With stories continuing to link the Spaniard with a return to the Emirates, it will surely happen one day, whether as a player, a coach, or otherwise.
Mathieu Flamini: He left only to return, and what a savvy piece of business that turned out to be. Now proving the best things in life are (at least sometimes) free, the Frenchman is bossing the Gunners’ midfield as if he has never been away.
Robin van Persie: Now at Manchester United, the Dutchman made Arsenal fans hearts soar and ultimately break after his fine form was followed by his decision to leave for pastures new. However the two side’s current league positions may give Gooners cause for a sly smile or two.
Philippe Senderos: The Swiss defender was officially an Arsenal player until 2010. However he spent loan spells at both Milan and Everton during that time. Now at Fulham, Senderos has developed an impressive defensive pairing with Brede Hangeland.
Manuel Almunia: Something of a journeyman prior to his switch to Arsenal, Almunia now plays for Championship side Watford. After narrowly missing out on promotion last season, the 36-year-old will be hoping for one more stab at the top flight.
image: © marklunch1