Wednesday, 16th February 2011. After finishing second in their group behind Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal were drawn against Barcelona in the second round of the Champions League and were set to face their Catalan rivals – managed by Pep Guardiola – at the Emirates in the first-leg.
The visitors gained an early advantage when David Villa’s first-half strike found the back of the net, silencing the home crowd. But as the Catalans continued to miss a handful of opportunities and waste numerous chances, Arsenal severely punished them with two late goals that sent the fans into elation, handing Arsene Wenger’s side the victory.
Wenger – whose excellent, positive substitutions forced his side to the memorable comeback – described the game as a “special night” and praised the attitude of his players. While Guardiola’s side remained favourites to win the tie, Arsenal’s tireless endeavour had proved too much for Barcelona, as the Gunners had successfully set-up a thrilling second-leg.
We’ll not mention what happened at the Camp Nou (3-1 Barcelona and Van Persie was sent off), but regardless of the Gunners once again crashing out of the tournament at the hands of Barca – who went on to win the competition – the side that grabbed a victory in 2011 deserve their plaudits.
So with that in mind, we’ve taken a look at where the 2011 Arsenal side that beat Barcelona are now.
GK – Wojciech Szczesny
Career path: Arsenal, Brentford (loan), Roma (loan), Juventus
Current club: Juventus
After coming of age during a loan spell at Brentford, Szczesny looked like he was going to become one of the Arsenal greats, but despite a number of excellent performances, he didn’t quite cut it. After a brilliant start to life in north London, he had a disastrous 2014-15 season that involved several individual errors and off-field incidents.
Arsenal went on to sign David Ospina and Petr Cech, leading the Polish international to be loaned out to Roma.
Szczesny then moved to Juventus in 2017, where he is viewed as a long-term successor to legendary keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
RB – Emmanuel Eboue
Career path: ASEC Mimosas, Beveren, Arsenal, Galatasaray, Sunderland
Current club: Retired
An Arsenal cult hero, Emmanuel Eboue spent six years with the Gunners and was part of the side that got to the Champions League final in the 2005-06 season. The marauding right-back’s unorthodox style didn’t quite make him one of the finest technical players they’ve ever seen at the Emirates, but his attitude, commitment and desire swiftly turned the Ivorian into a fan favourite.
After 214 appearances for Arsenal, he left the club for Galatasaray. 101 games in the Turkish league later, he was released by the club before a short spell at Sunderland in 2016. Having not officially retired he is still listed as a free agent.
Eboue made headlines in late 2017 when his financial struggles were made public. Following this, he was offered a coaching role with Galatasaray’s U14s.
CB – Laurent Koscielny
Career path: Guingamp, Tours, Lorient, Arsenal
Current club: Arsenal
The only survivor of this squad, Laurent Koscielny is still plying his trade at the Emirates. The Frenchman has been a valuable member of the Arsenal defence for the most part but battling with severe injuries in the last year has halted him slightly.
The defender has made 334 appearances during his time at the Emirates and is one of the club’s most integral players. During the Barcelona first-leg clash in 2011, Koscielny handled Lionel Messi with ease (and there aren’t many people who can say they’ve done that).
CB – Johan Djourou
Position: Centre-Back/Defensive Midfield
Career path: Arsenal, Birmingham City (loan), Hannover 96 (loan), Hamburg, Antalyaspor, SPAL
Current club: Free Agent
An Arsenal academy product that clearly had undeniable ability, but who struggled – mainly through injury – to successfully cement himself in the first-team. After being loaned out to Birmingham City in 2007, he returned to the Emirates the following year and made a handful of appearances, as Wenger’s side suffered from a number of injury problems.
His rare start against Barcelona could’ve marked the beginning of Djourou’s first-team campaign with Arsenal, but instead, the club signed Mertesacker the following summer and he struggled to get many chances in the first-team.
Djourou was loaned to Hannover in 2013 before signing for Hamburg permanently in 2014, making 92 appearances for the club before signing with Antalyaspor in 2017.
He then had a six-month spell at SPAL before mutually terminating his contract in January 2019.
LB – Gael Clichy
Career path: Cannes, Arsenal, Manchester City, İstanbul Başakşehir
Current club: İstanbul Başakşehir
One of Wenger’s exceptional captures, the French coach noticed Gael Clichy’s talents while he was playing for Cannes in Ligue 1, aged 17. He went on to become one of the finest full-backs to ever play at the Emirates, making 259 appearances for the club.
After winning the 2003-04 Premier League and 2005 FA Cup, he surprisingly moved to Manchester City in 2011, continuing his impressive form. The Frenchman won two more English titles with the Sky Blues, making 203 total appearances before moving to İstanbul Başakşehir in 2017.
CM – Alex Song
Career path: Bastia, Arsenal, Charlton Athletic (loan), Barcelona, West Ham United (loan), Rubin Kazan, Sion
Current club: FC Sion
Alex Song developed immensely after signing for Arsenal from Bastia in 2006. Wenger gently eased the towering midfielder into the first-team set-up and turned him from a promising talent into a top-class playmaker. His relationship with Robin van Persie was a joy to watch in the 2011-12 season, and his excellent performances earned him a move to Barcelona the following year.
It didn’t quite work out for Song in Spain, as after just 65 appearances (mainly off the bench) he moved back to England, signing for West Ham United for two seasons before moving to Rubin Kazan in 2016. After a couple of seasons in Russia, he moved to Swiss side Sion on a free in 2018.
CM – Jack Wilshere
Career path: Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers (loan), Bournemouth (loan), West Ham
Current club: West Ham
After spending 17 years at the club, Jack Wilshere waved goodbye to Arsenal in the summer of 2018. Leaving on a free transfer to West Ham his transfer signified the end of an era for Arsenal fans.
The naturally gifted midfielder competed excellently against Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta in their 2-1 win in 2011, but his progression suffered due to multiple injuries afterwards.
The 27-year-old played 197 times for the Gunners, only grabbing 14 goals.
He spent a season on loan with Bournemouth before signing permanently with West Ham last summer.
CM – Cesc Fabregas
Career path: Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, AS Monaco
Current club: AS Monaco
One of the most intelligent midfielders to have ever played for Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas played an instrumental role in the Gunners’ midfield, showing his class against Barcelona during their 2-1 victory.
After eight years at the club and just one game shy of 300 appearances, he moved Barca and won La Liga. After two seasons in Spain, he returned to England and signed for Chelsea, where he won the Premier League twice. In January he moved to AS Monaco for what proved to be a short reunion with then-manager Thierry Henry.
AMC – Samir Nasri
Position: Attacking midfield
Career path: Marseille, Arsenal, Manchester City, Sevilla (loan), Antalyaspor, West Ham
Current club: West Ham
On the night, Nasri played the crucial assist for Andrey Arshavin’s winner.
Another player who impressed at Arsenal after moving from Marseille in 2008, Samir Nasri linked up well with Song and Fabregas, playing 125 games for the club. Following his best season in an Arsenal shirt, he moved to Manchester City where he went on to win two Premier League titles.
The Frenchman went on loan to Sevilla in 2016 for a season before moving to Antalyaspor in 2017. Having completed a doping ban, Nasri is now at West Ham and assisted the Hammers’ winner over Arsenal on his league debut for the club.
AMC – Theo Walcott
Position: Inside forward/striker
Career path: Southampton, Arsenal, Everton
Current club: Everton
Surprisingly, Theo Walcott turns 30 next month. He played 397 games for Arsenal and scored 108 goals, as well as winning the FA Cup on two occasions.
Constant injury problems and a lack of first-team opportunities with the Gunners led the England international to move to Everton in the 2018 January transfer window for a fee of £20m, signing a three-and-a-half-year deal.
CF – Robin van Persie
Career path: Feyenoord, Arsenal, Manchester United, Fenerbahce, Feyenoord
Current club: Feyenoord
One of the most lethal strikers to have ever played for the Gunners, Robin van Persie scored 131 goals in 274 games before signing for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 2012. He went on to win the title during his time at Old Trafford and his goals in the 2012-13 season were crucial to the Red Devils’ success.
The Dutchman scored 58 goals in 105 games for United before moving to Fenerbahce in 2015.
He later completed a return to boyhood club Feyenoord in 2018 and has announced plans to retire from football once the campaign concludes.
Career path: Osasuna, Cartagonova (loan), Sabadell, Celta Vigo, Eibar (loan), Recreativo (loan), Albacete (loan), Arsenal, West Ham United (loan), Watford
Current club: Retired
Manuel Almunia spent eight years with the Gunners that were filled with ups and downs. Every strong performance seemed to be followed by a spectacular blunder, as Almunia struggled to prove himself as a true number one.
After a loan spell at West Ham, he moved to Watford in 2012, where he played over 70 league games. He retired in 2014 due to a heart problem that was picked up during his medical with Serie A side Cagliari.
Career path: Arsenal, Norwich City (loan), West Brom
Current club: West Brom
Gibbs signed for West Brom in the summer of 2017 after 12 years at the club, having made 230 appearances while scoring six goals.
Career path: Zenit St Petersburg, Arsenal, Zenit St Petersburg, Kuban Krasnodar, FC Kairat
Current club: Retired
His goal proved to be the winner against Barcelona, but Andrey Arshavin struggled since leaving the club in 2013. His charging runs and excellent finishing were wonderful to watch and made him popular at certain points among Arsenal fans.
His poor form at Zenit St Petersburg saw him move to Kuban Krasnodar in 2015, but he only lasted one season before moving to Kazakhstan side FC Kairat. Arshavin announced his retirement from football in December 2018.
Career path: Toulon, Monaco, Ajaccio (loan), Lyon, Sevilla, Arsenal, Bastia
Current club: Retired
Just the 39 appearances for Sebastian Squillaci during his time at Arsenal, yet after leaving the club in 2013, he moved to French side Bastia, where he played for four years. He retired in November 2017.
Career path: Sparta Prague, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Sparta Prague
Current club: Retired
A true Arsenal legend, Tomas Rosicky’s career at the Emirates spanned 10 years before moving to Czech side Sparta Prague in 2016, where he spent one season before making the decision to hang up his boots.
Career path: Sao Paulo, Arsenal, Sao Paulo, Al-Wahda, Cruzeiro (loan), Botafogo-SP
Current club: Botafogo-SP
Denilson had so much potential and looked to be breaking into the first-team before moving back to his homeland. Now 30, he left the Emirates in 2011 after making 153 appearances for the club. After going out on loan to Sao Paulo before signing permanently in 2013 he moved to Abu Dhabi side Al-Wahda, where he made 25 appearances.
Denilson is now back in Sao Paolo playing for Botafogo-SP.
Career path: Arsenal, Birmingham City (loan), Sunderland (loan), Juventus (loan), Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest, Rosenborg
Current club: Rosenborg
Niklas Bendtner eventually left Arsenal in 2014 after spending most of his time out on loan. The towering striker scored 47 goals in 171 games during his time in north London and is now playing for Norwegian side Rosenborg after spells with Nottingham Forest and Wolfsburg.
Jose Manuel Pinto