By some strange quirk of fate, Arsenal have only ever had three Italians sign for the club and only two have ever pulled on the shirt. One of them, Arturo Lupoli, hung up his boots in the summer and barely anybody noticed.
The early promise of Arturo Lupoli
At youth level, Arturo Lupoli was prolific, scoring two goals per game at under-17 level at Parma with 45 in just 22 games. He was a potent finisher who excelled inside the box.
At the end of his contract with the Italians in 2004, he refused to sign an extension allowing Arsenal to swoop in and claim the sought-after teenager.
Lupoli continued his development where he left off at Parma, scoring for fun with Arsenal’s youth. He struck up a strong partnership with Nicklas Bentdner and gained praise for his performances in the League Cup in the 2005-06 season.
A strong start at Arsenal and memorable moments
17-year-old Lupoli’s first senior start for Arsenal came in the same game 21-year-old Robin van Persie made his – against Manchester City in the League Cup, the former setting up the latter for the winner with 13 minutes left on the clock.
Lupoli also had a goal ruled out when van Persie was adjudged, harshly, to have handled the ball in the build up.
Lupoli played nine times for the senior side, mostly in the League Cup. But he also played along such Arsenal greats as Thierry Henry, Jose Antonio Reyes, Cesc Fabregas, and others.
He was on the bench for Arsenal’s trip to Real Madrid in the Champions League in February 2006, on our run to the final.
The turning point: Lupoli’s departure from Arsenal
For a variety of reasons, from bad advice to physical issues, Lupoli struggled to maintain that level of performance and left on loan with Derby the following season.
Despite a lack of goals at Championship level, Lupoli earned himself a permanent five-year deal at Fiorentina at the end of his Arsenal contract. Arsenal had offered him a new deal but Lupoli saw the path ahead of him at Arsenal as blocked.
Thierry Henry and Jose Antonio Reyes, both in his way, both left a year after the Italian.
Napoli also tried to sign him and thought they had.
Pierpaolo Marino, Napoli chief executive, said at the time: “I had a verbal agreement with the player’s agent. He then told me that the player chose Florence. I wish the boy one day to play for Napoli and in that case spare us the tear-jerking statement to avoid the whistles of San Paolo”.
The journeyman years: Lupoli’s struggles post-Arsenal
After he left Arsenal, Lupoli never really found anywhere to stay for longer than two years and didn’t come close to fulfilling the promise he had shown in his youth years.
In Florence, Lupoli found his path to a role as a first-team starter even more blocked than it was at Arsenal and he didn’t make his debut until December, five months after he signed.
He came on for the second half in the Italian Cup against Ascoli to play 45 minutes. Those were the only minutes he ever played for the Viola.
About the situation, Lupoli spoke of ‘external factors’ that had pressured him into signing for Fiorentina which he saw as mistake that really damaged his career, a move that was based more around money than football.
“External pressures led me to choose Fiorentina, making me look bad with Napoli to whom I had given my word,” he said. “I was rewarded from an economic point of view, but sunk from a technical one. The following year, nobody wanted me. I had ended up in oblivion.”
Another five loans lay in his future to Treviso, Norwich City, Sheffield United, Budapest Honved, and Catania.
Add in his parent clubs not yet mentioned that include Ascoli, Grosseto, Varese, Frosinone, Pisa, Suditirol, Fermana, Virtus Verona, Montegiorgio, and Borgo San Donnino, and you find the very definition of a journeyman in Arturo Lupoli.
Transfermarket list 24 teams Lupoli played for in total, but some of those are youth sides. Wikipedia has 18 clubs. Whatever the exact number, the most appearances he made for a single club was the 73 he registered for Fermana. He scored 11 goals, with two assists, there.
438 appearances, 90 goals, 18 assists, 24 teams. One trophy – the FA Cup he won with Arsenal in 2005.
Reflecting on what could have been
There was great promise in Lupoli’s short Arsenal career, but the youngster failed to make the step up at senior level, showing that one fatal flaw that takes out so many players of his age – lack of patience.
“But in the end, I don’t blame anybody except myself,” he told The Athletic. “What happened is mostly my fault: I didn’t have the strength to impose myself and come back to a higher league.”
Who knows what a few more years under the guidance of Arsene Wenger could have done for his career?
We can, of course, only speculate, but it is doubtful it would have harmed it.