From Vela to Van Persie, Sunu to Cesc: Arsene Wenger's League Cup debutants

From Van Persie to Vela; Spicer to Sunu ("who?!" you cry), the League Cup has long been Arsene Wenger's fine-tuning laboratory for blooding Arsenal's prodigous stars of tomorrow. 

There's been mixed success, of course, but who can doubt the usefulness of English football's third-favourite competition to the Gunners' fastidious Frenchman? 

So here's a glance at some of the fresh-faced youngsters to have made their names in the red and white on frosty Tuesday nights...

Sunderland 0-3 Arsenal: 25 Oct, 2005

A convincing win for Wenger's side at the Stadium of Light, sending them into the fourth round.

Nicklas Bendtner: The Dane replaced Owusu-Abeyie as a late substitute on Wearside to begin his topsy-turvy career with the Gunners. After a successful loan spell with Birmingham alongside Seb Larsson in the 2006/07 campaign, Bendtner returned to the Emirates Stadium in Wenger's first team set-up. Three seasons of involvement passed before the temperamental striker fell out of favour, and he joined Sunderland on loan in 2011/12. They didn't sign him, though, and despite Arsenal's best efforts to get rid with a succession of aborted trasfers, he joined Juventus in a largely pointless spell in 2012/13. Despite vowing never to play for the club again he's still hanging around as the Gunners' second-choice striker.

Fabrice Muamba: Born in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Muamba's father had to leave the country because of his political views. After moving to London in 1994, Muamba Jr. joined him at the age of 11. Despite being unable to speak a word of English when he arrived, the domineering-midfielder-to-be achieved 10 GCSEs and three A levels. Taken on at Arsenal as a schoolboy, Muamba made two League Cup appearances in his time at the club, but with Patrick Vieria ahead in the pecking order he moved to Birmingham City in 2006. Later at Bolton, in 2012, he suffered a cardiac arrest in an FA Cup clash at Tottenham, his heart having stopped for 78 minutes. To great relief Muamba made a full recovery, but was advised not to play professional football again. Now enjoying media work and ambassadorial roles.

Anthony Stokes: Adopted by his aunt and uncle Joan and John Stokes at three years old, Stokes played for the Shelbourne youth team before appearing on Arsenal's long-standing Irish scouting radar in 2003. Made his debut for the reserves at the tender age of 15. A successful loan spell with Falkirk in 2006, where he scored 14 goals in 16 SPL games, saw him sign for Sunderland in a £2 million deal. After struggling with only three goals in 36 appearances for the Black Cats he moved north of the border once more when Hibernian signed him for £500k. Celtic paid £1.2 million for his services on the back of 22 goals in his only season in Edinburgh. Capped six times by the Republic of Ireland. 


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