2011/12 Barclays Premier League
Born in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), in 1988, Muamba moved to England at 11 years old after his father sought asylum due to the bloody civil war that erupted in his homeland. In 2002, he joined the youth set-up of Arsenal - the club he supported growing up in Congo DR - and progressed through to the Gunners' academy before signing professional terms with the club three years later. An aggressive defensive midfielder, he was touted by some as "the new Patrick Vieria" because his style resembled that of the then Arsenal captain, and it was after the France international left that Arsene Wenger gave Muamba his first-team debut, starting him in Carling Cup games against Reading and Sunderland at the beginning of the 2005-06 season. Muamba didn't feature again for Arsenal in that campaign and joined Championship side Birmingham on a season-long loan for 2006-07 in a bid to further his football education. The teenager flourished playing regularly at St Andrew's and was named the club's Young Player of the Year after helping them back into the Premier League, as well as receiving a first call-up to the England Under-21s. He was snapped up by Birmingham on a permanent basis for a fee of around £4 million in May 2007, but the following season was not to be a happy one as the Blues were relegated back to the second tier. The midfielder's displays had done enough to earn him a stay in the Premier League, though, as Bolton paid around £5 million to secure his services. Muamba continued to cement his reputation as a consistent top-flight performer with the Trotters - missing just two Premier League games in his first two seasons - and was rewarded with a new four-year contract in 2010. Playing in the heart of the England Under-21 midfield, Muamba represented his country with distinction at two European Under-21 Championship tournaments, helping the Young Lions reach the final in 2009 and enduring a disappointing group stage exit in 2011. Known for his boundless box-to-box energy and excellent work-rate, it came as a major shock when Muamba collapsed on the pitch in an FA Cup quarter-final game against Tottenham in March 2012, after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was left critically ill in hospital, with the long-term prognosis for his recovery still unclear, and the incident led to an outpouring of tributes to the talented midfielder from the football world. Strengths: Physically imposing, energetic, tough-tackling and excellent at closing down and harrying opponents. Weaknesses: With just six goals in 230 appearances for his clubs and the England Under-21s, it's fair to say that his finishing could use some work and he has previously admitted that he lacks composure in front of goal. Career high: Reaching the European Under-21 Championship final with England in 2009. Career low: Suffering relegation from the Premier League with Birmingham in 2007-08, his first season after joining. Style: An all-action midfielder, who is strong in the tackle, Muamba modelled his game on childhood hero Patrick Vieira. Quotes: "As a man, Fabrice has a positive attitude towards life, he is full of determination and has a great desire. Everyone at Arsenal has huge respect for Fabrice... He is what you would call a committed player. His hunger and determination was so big." Arsene Wenger on his former player, March 2012. Trivia: Muamba has stated before that he would probably have been an accountant had he not become a footballer as he "always did well at school".
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