Many have lamented England’s poor showing at youth tournaments in the past.

However, with four out of five of the youth teams making it past the semi-final stage this summer, one wonders what can be achieved by these teams in the future.

Arsenal in the past have done well in youth competition, having won the FA Youth Cup and Premier Academy League in 2009. One would hope that these players would have kicked on and earned the right to represent the first team at some point.

Eight years on, it’s worth looking at where they are now.

1. James Shea

Shea was vital in Arsenal’s successive double in 2009. Although only 5ft11, the Islington born goalkeeper was a vocal figure in Arsenal’s defence. The club originally wished to nurture Shea’s talent by loaning him to Southampton. However it soon became apparent that the young man between the sticks lacked the necessary height and requisite quality to be a top class keeper. Although Shea was included in five Champions League squads, he never represented Arsenal’s first team and dropped down to non-league level for a time. Shea eventually gained employment with Wimbledon AFC and established himself as first choice goalkeeper. Despite helping Wimbledon AFC achieve promotion in 2016, Shea was allowed to leave the club in 2017 with Wimbledon manager bringing in fresh blood in his bid to gain promotion to the Championship. Now currently plying his trade for Luton Town in League Two, it seems James Shea has found his level.

2. Craig Eastmond

A familiar face to most Arsenal fans, Craig Eastmond is currently dominating Sutton United’s midfield. At the end of the 2009 campaign, Eastmond was one of the few players with a clear pathway to the first team. His versatility made him useful and allowed him to make appearances in both the Premier League and the League Cup. However, opportunities were hard come by and Eastmond was loaned out to his boyhood club Millwall F.C. Unfortunately, his loan move acted as a catalyst for a downward spiral. He failed to hold down a place at Millwall, then Wycombe, then Colchester, then Yeovil before finally finding his level at Sutton United. He has since excelled at Sutton United and grabbed some attention in a successful FA Cup run which culminated in a two nil defeat to Arsenal. He is currently at the peak of his career and could potentially get one more lucrative move.

3. Kyle Bartley

Kyle Bartley is one of the surprise packages of the 2009 double champions. Although he was a significant cog in the resolute defence that saw the young Gunners perform so well, he was deemed a poor ball player and ultimately unreliable in an Arsene Wenger team. As such, Bartley spent several seasons on loan before securing a permanent move to Swansea. Gary Monk became a fan of the young England defender and has since joined him on loan at Leeds United where he has made over 40 appearances for the club. With Paul Clement looking to play out of defence at Swansea this season, it would not surprise anyone if Bartley was to be moved on permanently with Leeds favourite to sign him.

4. Luke Ayling

Interestingly, Bartley’s centre back partner from the 2009 season, Luke Ayling, played over 40 appearances to the right of his former centre back partner last season as Leeds United’s right back. Ayling, the six foot one inch defender, has slowly progressed up the leagues since his permanent departure from Arsenal in 2010. He was one of the few players who wasn’t afforded any real opportunities in Arsene Wenger’s first team and wasn’t provided the chance to prove himself on loan. Ayling matured at Yeovil Town for four seasons before moving to Bristol City where he won the League One Trophy and secured a move to Championship side Leeds United. Ayling has proved a useful commodity to Leeds and has been lauded for his defensive organisation and his reading of the game.

5. Thomas Cruise

Thomas Cruise has had an incredibly exciting career since being released from Arsenal in 2009. A few of his highlights include: in 2011 Cruise was blamed for a terrorist attack on the Kremlin and was disavowed by the U.S. government – fortunately, after going ‘off the grid’ he was able to complete the impossible mission and clear his name and his colleagues; in 2012, Cruise resumed his career as an ex-army detective as he managed to uncover a huge government conspiracy; despite being told to ‘Never Go Back’, Cruise was once again involved in another government conspiracy where he was tasked with clearing his name. If all that wasn’t difficult enough, Cruise spent one year at Torquay before retiring as a footballer and becoming a full-time accountant.

6. Cedric Evina

Similar to Cruise, Cedric Evina has struggled to hold down a first team position and has migrated from team to team. Despite being on Doncaster’s books, the Cameroon defender is plying his trade at Crawley Town in League Two. He was never offered much of a chance after the 2009 season with Arsenal and although he is only 25, it is believed that the defender is considering alternative career paths.

7. Jack Wilshere

At the centre of Arsenal’s success that season was a young Jack Wilshere. The young England man has shown that he is capable of becoming an incredible player but has failed, mostly as a result of injury, to live up to his potential. A loan spell with Bolton allowed Wilshere to get valuable Premier League playing time in 2010, after which, Wilshere became a pivotal member of Wenger’s first team and squad. Unfortunately, injuries have restricted Wilshere to a squad role in Wenger’s squad and saw the England midfielder opt for a loan spell at Bournemouth last season. It would now seem Wilshere’s chance of greatness is gone and his career is now at a crossroads. His future will become more apparent by the start of the season but it would be a huge shame if the brightest of lights from Arsenal’s youth success was to finish his Arsenal career so faintly.

8. Henri Lansbury

On the opposite wing to Wilshere was England midfielder Henri Lansbury. The midfielder has adjusted admirably to life post-Arsenal in the Championship. Arsene Wenger was always a fan of Lansbury – both as a ballplayer and as an aggressive midfielder. He believed the England midfielder to be of the requisite quality to eventually break into the first team. However, loan spells with Watford, Norwich and West Ham suggested that he would struggle to make the final step up to the Premier league and eventually Wenger acquiesced to a permanent deal to Nottingham Forest. Since moving to Forest in 2012, Lansbury has excelled in the Championship, even being granted the captain’s armband on occasion. In the January transfer window, Lansbury made the move to Aston Villa, as the club look to secure promotion in the 2017/18 season. It seems inevitable that Lansbury and Arsenal will meet again in the Premier League, in opposition with each other.

9. Francis Coquelin

In the engine room of Arsenal’s double winning team was the much maligned Francis Coquelin. Coquelin’s career has been a peculiar one. After his success with the youth team, Coquelin had successful loan spells with Lorient and Freiburg, playing across a range of positions including left wing. In 2014, Coquelin continued his development with Charlton Athletic before Arsenal’s midfield was hit by a potent mix of leprosy and the black plague – resulting in a starting midfield of Coquelin and Cazorla. Although the Frenchman lacks many of the technical qualities to truly excel for a Premier League club, his steely demeanor was seldom seen in Arsenal’s midfield and proved a winning formula – if only temporarily. Since then, Coquelin has proved a useful squad player.

10. Emmanuel Frimpong

Alongside Coquelin was the enigmatic Emmanuel Frimpong. A footballer known more widely for his social media habits than his footballing ability, the Ghanaian midfielder has spent the last three seasons in Russia, making a total of 35 appearances over the three years. Although Frimpong was on Arsenal’s books until 2014, his progress was seriously hindered by a ruptured anterior ligament in 2010 and a cruciate ligament in 2012. Frimpong recovered and made appearances for Barnsley, Charlton and Fulham on loan before the club decided to cut its losses and allow the Ghanaian to leave permanently.

11. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, perhaps one of the most gifted players from the 2009 squad, has failed to live up to his potential. The rangy attacking midfielder was blessed with skill, stamina, pace and an unusual versatility that saw him play in a variety of positions from centre back to centre forward. Three separate loan spells in the subsequent years after his FA Youth Cup and League double wasn’t enough to persuade Wenger to keep the nifty attacker on a permanent basis. His next port of call was to the Tractor Boys in the Championship where moments of magic were often interspersed between weeks and sometimes months of sheer mediocrity. In 2013, Emmanuel-Thomas was used in a rare swap deal with Bristol City’s Paul Anderson; the move was a successful one as Emmanuel-Thomas formed one half of the most potent strike partnership in League One. Unfortunately, this was a rare glimpse of his talent and the mercurial forward quickly regressed to what had become his norm. Emmanuel-Thomas finished last season as the top-scorer for Gillingham. However, it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to afford him a chance at parent club Millwall FC.

12. Sanchez Watt

At the tip of the attack was Sanchez Watt. At a very early age, Watt was tipped for huge things with Barcelona interested in the young Englishman. However, Arsenal were quick to secure his services at the age of seven, meaning he spent a total of 15 years at the club. After his double success in 2009, Watt tested himself at several clubs, often switching from winger to centre forward and vice versa. Despite his flair and ability, doubts remained over Watts’ overall ability to impact a game and Wenger allowed the player to leave permanently for Colchester United in 2013. After two years with The U’s, Watt spent a year in the Indian Super League before returning to England to join Crawley Town on a short term contract. Although Watt was a reliable goal scorer at underage level, he has been unable to regain the electrifying knack of finding the net.