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Where are they now: Arsenal's pre-season stars from Sanogo to Frimpong

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Pre-season friendlies are viewed from one of two angles by fans, they’re either a waste of time that should never be taken seriously, or they’re the perfect way to shake off some rust and identify new talents, and for Arsenal supporters, the latter is usually the case.

The summer fixtures for the Gunners have, in recent years, been some of the most entertaining in the entire season, with the Emirates Cup a competition Arsenal have done well to keep around despite the waning interest and the memes and jokes surrounding the pre-season friendlies by rival fans.

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Indeed, Arsenal uses pre-season as a reliable yardstick to test which players who were on the cusp of regular football last year are now ready for the big time. Yet sometimes, these games can prove to be misleading, and here are just five players who showed exciting promise but ultimately fizzled out.

Emmanuel Frimpong

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If Emmanuel Frimpong is where we’re starting, then you know we’re in for a ride with this one. The midfielder came through the academy after joining Arsenal at the age of nine, and in the 2011 pre-season of Austria, the future one-time Ghanian international impressed.

Starting for Arsenal in the last side to win the FA Youth Cup alongside Jack Wilshere, Frimpong was tipped for big things, and after an incredible pre-season, disaster struck when the midfielder injured his ACL, ruling him out for the year.

Although Frimpong returned a year later, the midfielder made just 16 appearances for Arsenal, with his most notable feat coming in a 2-0 loss against Liverpool where he was sent off as the Gunners a week later lost 8-2 to Manchester United, with the Ghanian now retired from the game.

Gedion Zelalem

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A surprise inclusion in the 2013 pre-season tour of Asia, Gedion Zelalem set the Arsenal world alight by impressing for the Gunners against the likes of the Indonesia Dream Team and Vietnam, with the American youngster also being compared to Cesc Fabregas.

Although the hype surrounding Zelalem was unparalleled at the time and the midfielder remains one of the youngest players to ever play for Arsenal, it was just not meant to be for the youngster as injuries plagued the playmaker’s time in north London.

After being released by the club in 2019, Zelalem returned to the States to join MLS side Sporting Kansas City, where the midfielder went on to sign for New York City FC, where the now 25-year-old remains to this day.

Yaya Sanogo

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If there was ever an Arsenal player who is associated with the Emirates Cup, it has got to be Yaya Sanogo, who lit up the competition in 2014 after scoring an incredible four goals in a single game against Benfica.

Despite this insane performance, Sanogo never hit the heights Wenger expected at the Arsenal, with the striker leaving in 2017 to join Toulouse before signing for Huddersfield Town in 2021, where the attacker to this day remains a free agent.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide

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The Emirates Cup has seen some fantastic players make their first steps as a member of Arsenal’s senior squad, and Jeff Reine-Adelaide is a name who left many supporters spellbound after his performances in 2015.

Hailed by many as the next great Arsenal academy talent, Reine-Adelaide only made a handful of appearances for the Gunners before leaving on a permanent deal to Angers in 2018, where just a year later, ‘The Jeff’ was signed by Olympique Lyonnais in a deal worth a reported £20m.

Matteo Guendouzi

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When Matteo Guendouzi joined Arsenal in 2018, very few expected this teenager from the French second-tier to make much of an impact. Yet one pre-season later, and the hype around the midfielder was very much real.

The youngster became a regular under Unai Emery in his only full season in north London, though despite his quality and potential, Guendouzi fell out of favour with Mikel Arteta, with the midfielder now set to join Olympique Marseilles this summer after an incredible loan spell with the French giants that saw the former FC Lorient star become a regular for the France nationa team.

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