With the 2021-22 season in the books, for Arsenal at least, we can now turn our attention to another summer full of activity. The Gunners have been aggressive over the past 12 months signing new players, finding the exit door for senior players not a part of the future plan, moving out those remaining on loan deals, and continuing to evaluate their U23 prospects. This season Arsenal had a total of 26 players out on loan for some portion of the season. First, let’s start with a quick recap on three that returned in January from half-season moves.
Miguel Azeez (CM) and Jonathan Dinzeyi (CB) spent the first half of their season out on loan and returned to Arsenal for the second part of the year. You can find their previous updates at that link and we will touch more on their last few months back at Arsenal in an upcoming post focused on the U23s and U18s. Additionally, U23 keeper Dejan Iliev spent the first few months on loan before his contract was terminated by the club in January.
Now on to the breakdown. Today we will look at the first seven (alphabetically), followed by eight more each of the next two days.
Player/Age/Position: Ryan Alebiosu, 20, RB
Club: Crewe Alexandra
Season overview & Outlook: After a successful run with the Arsenal academy sides to start his season, Alebiosu headed out for a half-season loan to gain professional experience. He immediately saw playing time in League One, playing in four straight matches in a row. However, Ryan then suffered a back injury that kept him out in the final weeks of the season. Look for the young right back to find a home once again in League One next season.
Player/Age/Position: Tim Akinola, 21, DM
Club: Dundee United
Season overview & Outlook: Like Alebiosu, Akinola spent the first few months of the year as a regular starter for the Arsenal U23s either as a defensive midfielder or center back. Then he joined Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership in January. Again, like Alebiosu, things didn’t go as planned. Akinola was mostly unused, only seeing 45 minutes of action in total before getting an ankle injury in March ended his time with the club. He’ll be looking for a fresh restart come August.
Player/Age/Position: Daniel Ballard, 22, CB
Season overview & Outlook: Besides a knee injury that ruled him out for three months in the middle of the season, Ballard had the ideal loan experience, for both the player and Arsenal. 31 starts, and one goal, Ballard was a regular starter in a Championship side that was in playoff contention throughout the year. Millwall would ultimately finish 9th, six points out of the playoffs, but Ballard demonstrated he is capable of being a top-caliber player at that level. Only three clubs allowed fewer goals this season (all in the top four). Goal.com is reporting that Arsenal is open to selling the Northern Ireland national team player, with multiple clubs interested and his path starting at Arsenal unclear at the moment. Luckily for fans, they are expected to include a buy-back clause in any deal.
Player/Age/Position: Folarin Balogun, 20, FW
Season overview & Outlook: After a great few months leading the Arsenal U23s, Balogun made the jump to the Championship and nearly helped Middlesborough reach the playoffs. 21 appearances, three goals, and three assists resulted in a solid four months to continue his development and pitch his case for inclusion in the Arsenal first-team next season. If Lacazette and Nketiah leave the club this summer, Balogun is in a terrific position to stay with the Gunners next year. Now back in Europe, the club will need three forwards and Folarin will like his chance to take up Eddie’s role if it presents itself. He isn’t the finished product yet but should have the opportunity to prove he is ready for the top flight.
Player/Age/Position: Hector Bellerin, 27, RB
Club: Real Betis
Season overview & Outlook: I think I can safely say we all miss Bellerin. But he seems to have loved his time at Real Betis and had made it clear he would like to find a way to remain at the Spanish club. Betis, who finished 5th in La Liga and won the Spanish Cup, would like to keep Bellerin as well but would find the finances of the deal difficult. With five assists from 32 matches at his new club, Bellerin seems to have rediscovered his enjoyment of the game this season. For Arsenal, Tomiyasu has been a great addition, but a second right-back is needed to upgrade the spot over Cedric. It’s doubtful Bellerin returns to play that role for one season. I for one, just hope that all the parties involved find an easy way to resolve this move.
Player/Age/Position: Harry Clarke, 20, CB
Club: Ross County (1st Half) & Hibernian (2nd Half)
Season overview & Outlook: Clarke netted three goals and two assists in 17 matches for Ross County in the Scottish Premiership before moving to Hibernian in the winter. A hamstring injury meant he didn’t return to action until April. However, in just eight appearances he managed a goal and two assists, giving up a goal or assist every three matches despite the injury interruption and switching clubs. Add in the fact that he played equally across CB, RB, RM, and LM and it’s been quite the productive season for Clarke. He will spend the next season remaining on loan at Hibernian, giving Arsenal a chance to evaluate his top-level potential and reassess their own squad development.
Player/Age/Position: Matteo Guendouzi, 23, CM
Season overview & Outlook: Arriving from FC Lorient ahead of the 2018-19 season, Guendouzi has had the full experience with Arsenal. Unknown player to an exciting prospect for a future rebuild. Energetic and emotional player to a fall out with the manager. Now a second season away on loan has seen him discover a new home, Marseille. Along with Saliba, the two helped Marseille finish second in Ligue 1 and earn a Champions League place. 14 assists and five goals from 56 matches. You can see why Marseille is set to make his move permanent for an estimated $12 million this summer. Not the ending most had expected a few years back, but finally a bit of positive business for Arsenal.
Check back in tomorrow when we look at part two of this list including Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Estonia’s #1 Karl Hein, and more.