Hello everyone, welcome to what I hope to make a little bit of a series. Today, I am going to be going over Arsenal’s men’s first team, women’s first team and academy and judge their standing in terms of the club, the first club which I am going to do. Arsenal currently has a staggering 26 players loaned out, 10 of which come from either their first-team squad. This article relates to their men’s first team.
If you would like to only find out about specific players, you can do so by using the ‘find’ option on your browser (Ctrl+F) and typing in their names. So, let’s dive right in and find out where these players are in the mind of Arsenal and Arteta and whether they have a future with the Gunners.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a 24-year-old footballer, who can operate as a central midfielder, right-back or left-back. He is currently on loan at Serie A club Roma, and has previously had 5 caps for England. He was loaned out in January, after playing just 268 minutes for Arteta’s side, which meant he was on track to play just 536 minutes during the campaign, an 69% decrease from the previous season.
Jose Mourinho hasn’t been the biggest fan of Ainsley since he stepped foot in Italy, saying this when asked about him and fellow loanee Sérgio Oliveira, “They haven’t impacted a lot. Maybe they haven’t settled in yet. They have a hard time grasping Italian football. English and Portuguese football [are] quite different. “If you join a team that is not in condition, it’s not easy to fit in. They are players who have come to complete the staff. They aren’t ones who make the difference.”
Maitland-Niles has only picked up 385 minutes so far in Rome, with his last start coming in a disappointing 1-1 draw in Vitesse on the 17th of March, in which he got subbed off after 66 minutes. After this disappointing spell, I believe that Arteta will keep Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a depth option, which is the purpose he served before his loan. Both Takehiro Tomiyasu and Cédric Soares have performed fantastically for Arsenal, and so he will likely serve as a central midfielder or left-back in the future, for Arsenal anyway.
Folarin Balogun is a 20-year-old professional football player, who typically plays as a striker, however, he can play from both flanks as well. He is currently on loan at Championship club Middlesbrough, and currently has 7 international appearances for the England U21’s, He was loaned out in January, after playing just 70 minutes for Arteta’s side, and mostly playing for the U23’s, which was a league that he had been dominating for the last 3 years, racking up 23 goal contributions in 33 matches, a ratio of 0.70.
Balogun has inevitability had a harder time in the Championship, however, he still has mustered up 5 goal contributions in 14 games. When he was asked about Balogun’s loan spell so far (as well as somebody else’s), Chris Wilder said, “They’re two young boys, first loan spells. You can come with all the hype and they’ve played for Arsenal and Brighton, and they’ve played for England under-21s and the Ireland side.“But it’s a big culture shock for them to leave their home and come up North. They come in and have to interact with a new group and a new manager. But, I’ve got to say, I think both of their attitudes have been superb and I’m still sure there are more to come.“
Due to Arsenal’s lack of potency in front of goal, and both Lacazette and Nketiah’s contracts expiring for Arsenal in the summer, Balogun will certainly get an opportunity next season, and will likely become the Gunners second choice striker, with one of Arteta’s main targets being a new striker. Balogun will likely have an opportunity to challenge for the starting berth next season.
Reiss Nelson is a 22-year-old player, who typically plays as a winger, however, he can play through the middle as an attacking midfielder. He is currently on loan at Eredivisie club Feyenoord, and most recently had 12 international appearances for the England U21’s. He was loaned out in the summer, after an injury ruled him out for the majority of last season.
Nelson hasn’t been at the same level this season as in the Bundesliga, with Reiss not being given consistent game time. When the Feyenoord manager was asked about Nelson’s loan spell, Arne Slot said, “The talent is there, but what Reiss still struggles with is creating big chances for himself or his teammates. You see a lot of skill, speed and agility, but the final push is still missing. Then it’s just not a finish or just not an assist. The most difficult thing in football is to get the best out of your play. And if you play for Feyenoord, where you often end up in a promising position as a winger, you expect a higher yield.“
Nelson’s situation next season at Arsenal isn’t that clear. Reports suggests that the Gunners are trying to offload Pepe, which should mean that the position behind Saka on the right-wing is his, right? Well, it seems that the Gunners may look for a player who can play as a striker and right-winger, or a central midfielder and a right-winger. However, I feel that Nelson will either get chucked out on loan again, or will be given a chance during pre-season.
MATTEO GUENDOUZI, KONSTANTINOS MAVROPANOS & DEJAN ILIEV
All of these players are in similar situations so I felt it was right to touch on them together, as they went out on loan and likely won’t even return for pre-season. Dejan Iliev is the most simple case, as he went on loan from the summer to January to Orion Tip Sereď, played 4 games (which at 27 years old wasn’t good enough for Arsenal), and so was sold to AS Trenčín after. Despite being from North Macedonia, a country with a lack of quality players, he still hasn’t played for the national side.
Guendouzi’s loan was more puzzling, to say the least. Many Arsenal fans are unaware that Guendouzi is likely not an Arsenal player anymore. This is because, the French international’s loan transfer to Marseille, there were clauses inputted that if he reached certain quotas (which he now has), then Marseille would have an option to buy him. So even though he is still officially an Arsenal player, he probably won’t play in a Gunners shirt again, as he’s been fantastic at Arsenal.
Marseille boss Jorge Sampaoli dispelled the concerns that Arsenal fans has of him, saying “Aside from his youth, Matteo has a particular energy. He has a desire to win and he’s a natural leader. We imagined that would be the case but that it would happen over time. Seeing this in addition to his performances, we have an energy that everyone can envy. It’s contagious and it’s a very important value in life. Guendouzi, for example, he’s 22-years-old but he acts like he’s 30. The most important thing is maturity.” The fact that Guendouzi is being spoken of so highly that Sampaoli is going to try his best to keep him.
Finally, we have Marvopanos, Konstantinos Mavropanos is a 24-year-old player, who plays as a central defender. He is currently on loan at Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart, and has 9 caps for Greece. He was loaned out in the summer of 2020, with this season’s loan being an extension. The German-based club also have the option to make the deal permanent for €3.5 million.
When he was asked about Marvopanos, the Stuttgart boss Pellegrino Matarazzo praised the loanee, saying, “He’s our gladiator! He’s a monster in terms of physique. “And when he makes a mistake, he hums around some Greek swear words. “I like that. He’s just a tough dog.”
Ah, William Saliba. In case you are unaware, William Saliba is a 22-year-old player, who plays as a centre back for both club and country (France). He is currently on loan at Ligue Un club Marseille, but previously played at Nice and Saint-Étienne on loan. He has never actually played a competitive game for Arsenal, with his only appearance being in a friendly vs MK Dons, with has baffled many Arsenal fans. Saliba was loaned out in the summer, with speculation saying that this was to get him more experience before stepping into the side in 22/23.
Saliba has been brilliant at Marseille, gaining opportunities in the France side, the current World Champions, and could even make the World Cup in Qatar. When Didier Deschamps was asked about Saliba, he said, “We have been following him for a while, he is with the U21s. I talk a lot with Sylvain Ripoll, he was also aware since the weekend. I could have announced his call-up yesterday, but I waited until the end of his match with OM to make it official. He knows the system of play. He has a good heading game and exudes a lot of serenity and tranquillity, even if there are sometimes a few small excesses in certain situations of recovery with the ball.“
I think Saliba’s situation next season is clear. He either walks into the squad and rotates with Ben White and Gabriel, or he gets sold. However, I think he will stay. Not only because of the fact that he fits Arsenal’s project of young players, but the fans want to see him playing in the Premier League.
Alex Rúnarsson is a 27-year-old, who plays a goalkeeper. He is currently on loan at Belgian First Division A club OH Leuven, and also has 14 international appearances for his country, Iceland. He was loaned out in the summer, as he needed to develop in order to eventually become the second choice.
Rúnarsson has been put in a positive light by his current boss Marc Brys, with the 59-year-old saying, “He expected to play. Then it’s great that he stayed motivated when that didn’t happen. He comes from a much bigger club, but is clearly willing to throw himself for [OH Leuven].”
Rúnarsson’s situation next season at Arsenal will be an interesting one. The Gunners are likely to offload number 2 shot-stopper Bernd Leno, and so Rúnarsson may have a chance to fulfil that role. However, he is likely to face competition from the likes of Karl Jacob Hein, and Matt Turner. I suspect a sale impending, or third-choice.
Héctor Bellerín is a 27-year-old football player, who operates as a right-back. He is currently on loan at La Liga club Real Betis, and has played 4 international games for Spain. He was loaned out in the summer, as the Gunners were looking to try something new at right-back.
A quote from Pellegrini himself is difficult to find due to Real Betis’ page being solely in Spanish and also difficult to navigate. However, Robert Pires, a current La Liga Ambassador and former Arsenal legend said, “He called me and asked me about the manager, Manuel Pellegrini, who was my manager at Villarreal. ‘I said Hector, look, if you have the opportunity to play with Pellegrini you need to go, because you will enjoy it. The most important thing is to enjoy your football. Not just playing the game itself, of course that’s important. But also, every morning, being at Real Betis, going into the club.”
Bellerin next season? Well, the Gunners are looking towards getting a new right-back, but I think that they are more likely to opt for the Spaniard. He has played 22 games this season, and has managed to secure a regular spot in the starting 11, so I don’t think Arteta can snub him anymore. He has to make a decision, let him stay or go. I think he’ll pick stay, and he’ll become the Gunners’ second choice right-back, with Cedric operating off the left-hand side from next season.
Pablo Marí is a 28-year-old footballer, who operates as a centre-back. He is currently on loan at Serie A club Udinese. He was loaned out in January, as the Gunners were looking to get more out of players, and also to cut down on their wage bill, which wasn’t proportionate to their league finishes.
Marí has been on blast in recent days, saying that he does not want a return to Arsenal after the loan deal has ended, and wants either a permanent or temporary reprieve of his time in Udine coming to an end. Here is the full quote, “When I arrived in January, I had a clear and precise idea. I told the coach… that I was coming to play. But I realized that I had to earn the job day after day, workout after workout. [The coach,] Cioffi was the first who welcomed me, well, here… I really like having the ball and here it can be done and then there is the battle and I like having a battle on the pitch. I would like to stay in Italy.”
Pablo Marí has made his feelings towards next season very clear. He does not want to return to the Emirates Stadium, and I don’t think anybody is going to stop him, unless they cannot strike a deal with a club in Italy. If Marí doesn’t want to play for Arteta, then I doubt he’ll force him to, although saying that, stranger things have happened.
Some Arsenal fans may be unaware of who Trusty is, and especially why he is in the first team section. Well, on transfer deadline day in January, Arsenal ‘signed’ Trusty from Colorado Rapids, a club with Stan Kronke (Arsenal’s owner) also owns. Similarly to Saliba in 2019, Trusty has gone on a half-season loan back to the Rapids, where he has played all 6 games so far.
Here is Colorado Rapids’ General Manager Padraigh Smith talking about the move in January “Auston is coming off an exceptional season in 2021 in which he played a vital role in helping us finish top the Western Conference for the first time in our history. We remain committed to bringing through the top young players from Colorado and across the United States and to [provide] them with a platform to flourish, achieve success in MLS and earn the chance to make a move to Europe. Auston’s outstanding performances caught the eye of several European clubs over the past 12 months and we are privileged to be part of an organization with the reach and scale of KSE that allows us to help a player of Auston’s potential further his development and career aspirations in Europe.”
The 23-year-old has the ability to strengthen Arsenal’s depth at centre back, adding to the likes of Saliba, White, Gabriel, Ballard (read my glowing praise of Ballard in the academy version of this [link it!!]) and potentially Mavropanos. When you look at it like this, you start to realise that Arsenal have one of (if not) the best crop of young centre backs in the world, and Trusty is just going to improve it.
Oh deary me. In case you are unaware, William Saliba is a 22-year-old player, who plays as a centre back for both club and country (Uruguay). He is currently on loan at Serie A club Fiorentina, but hasn’t actually played for the Gunners in over 2 years, with the 26-year-old having many rumours about his circumstance spread like wildfire online.
However, Torreira has dropped 10/10’s in Florence, with first-team manager Vincenzo Italiano saying, “We are talking about a player who played for Atletico Madrid and Arsenal, has charisma and high intelligence. “He really wants to have the ball at his feet, he always remedies his mistakes. He adds to the central department where we have quality and dynamism. I’m happy to have a player with this character, in terms of mentality we have to be strong, we must never give up.”
I’m not sure where Torreria lies, but he’s probably getting sold. In the rare event that he does stay, he fits in brilliantly, as the Gunners are desperate for more midfield cover, as we’ve seen in the Brighton game. However, something larger can be said here. It’s players like Guendouzi & Torreira that stop Arsenal from moving forward, as you never know if they’re there, or not.
First-XI challengers/More challenging loan:
Auston Trusty, Héctor Bellerín, William Saliba, Folarin Balogun
Back to the squad/Stays at a similar level:
Pablo Marí, Alex Rúnarsson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson
Leaves/Goes on a lower level/less challenging loan:
Lucas Torreria, Matteo Guendouzi, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Dejan Iliev
Well, that was long. This article has gone over 16,000 characters, around 2900 words, and gone through the 10 players who have gone out on loan for the first team and are current players this season at Arsenal. If you have enjoyed this journey, please let us know, and I could bring more for your club or, if you are an Arsenal fan, more content going forward. I hope you enjoyed it. Make sure you check out the other versions! Bye