As the World Cup edges ever closer, Arsenal fans balance the excitement of the sport’s biggest competition with the hope that all of the Gunners in action in Qatar return without injury. The season really feels like a series of competitions, of which Arsenal has won the first leg. Returning from the World Cup with fitness intact, the return to action and holiday fixtures, then the January transfer window. Where the table and squads stand at that point is anyone's guess. But before we worry too much about that, a check-in with eight more Arsenal players away on loan this season.
Part 1 - Miguel Azeez, Folarin Balogun, Harry Clarke, Marcelo Flores & more
Tyreece John-Jules, 21, CF
Ipswich Town (League One)
Season update & Outlook: After five years at various levels across multiple loan moves, John-Jules was finally finding a run of success. So far this season he’s made 21 appearances, missing just two matches, the most recent games. Three goals and one assist to help Ipswich into second place in League One. Unfortunately, the good news ends there, as his absence is due to a ‘major tear to his hamstring’. It could be a long road back for John-Jules just as he was able to show his potential at the senior level.
Alex Kirk, 20, CB
Ayr United FC (Scottish Championship, 2nd tier)
Season update & Outlook: Kirk has quickly become an integral part of a winning side. Since his arrival he has been in the matchday squad 19 out of 20 times, starting 12 times, scoring twice, and providing an assist. He has become a primary center-back for Ayr and helped the team into first place in the division. Ayr hasn’t been promoted to the Scottish Premiership since the late 1970s. The team has a +13 goal difference when Kirk has been on the pitch, which is tied for first on the team, and averages 2.36 points per match when he plays.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 25, CM
Season update & Outlook: We are entering what will likely be the final stretch of months in which Maitland-Niles is an Arsenal player. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, his on-again-off-again role in Arsenal’s setup is ending. He has been in and out of the lineup, for a Southampton side that sits 19th in the Premier League and just parted ways with Ralph Hasenhüttl. Perhaps after the World Cup break, new manager Nathan Jones will be able to help AMN improve his impact at Southampton and rescue the team from what looks like certain relegation.
Pablo Mari, 29, CB
AC Monza (Serie A)
Season update & Outlook: After a slow start to the season, Monza has climbed from the bottom of the Serie A to 14th place thanks to five wins in the last nine matches. After missing the early part of the season with an ab muscle injury, Mari started seven straight matches, including a 1-0 win over Juventus. Then came the horrific attack in a local supermarket that left one person dead and Mari needing surgery for a wound in his back. He will be out for the next few months as he recovers but could be back by the time Monza hosts Sampdoria at the start of February. Best of luck to Pablo in his recovery and I’m sure the Arsenal supporters are eager to see him return to the pitch for Monza later this season.
Nikolaj Moller, 20, CF
FC Den Bosch (Keuken Kampioen Divisie - 2nd tier in the Netherlands)
Season update & Outlook: It looked like another failed loan attempt at the end of September. Moller had played just 59 minutes in FC Den Bosch’s first ten matches as the club struggled in the relegation battle. But over the last month, he’s been involved in the last five matches, including starting the most recent three, scoring a brace on Monday, and picking up an assist. The club is now 11th in the table with Moller in a good position to see considerable time this season.
Brooke Norton-Cuffy, 18, RB
Rotherham United (Championship)
Season update & Outlook: Norton-Cuffy has easily adapted to the Championship and has become a regular part of Rotherham’s setup who sits comfortably mid-table. He’s already matched the number of minutes he got at Lincoln City in League One last season. Most often playing at right-midfield Norton-Cuffy leads the team in crosses into the penalty area per 90. He however missed out on England’s squad for the UEFA Euro U19 Championship Qualifiers. While next season might be a step too far to make Arsenal’s first team, he clearly is on the right path.
Mazeed Ogungbo, 20, CB
Crawley Town (League Two)
Season update & Outlook: A first-time loanee Ogungbo got off to a solid start featuring in the majority of Crawley Town’s opening month of matches. However, unfavorable results and subsequent lineup shuffles have seen him on the outside since mid-September. A red card in the EFL Trophy on September 20th effectively ended his involvement, being left out of the matchday squad in nine of the last ten matches across competitions. He will be looking to regain the manager’s confidence or else he may be back with the U21s come January or off on another loan.
Arthur Okonkwo, 21, GK
Crewe Alexandra (League Two)
Season update & Outlook: Okonkwo continues to be Crewe Alexandra’s primary keeper. He has started their FA Cup and League Cup ties and all 17 League Two matches. A clean sheet in the FA Cup will see Crewe travel to League One’s Barnsley in the second round later this month. Okonkwo has saved two of the three penalties he has faced. And despite having faced the third-highest total of shots on target he has six clean sheets with Crewe currently in 16th place (of 24).
Of the four young defenders (including the keeper in that), which do you think has the best chance of making Arsenal’s first-team squad in the coming years?