In the best-case scenario, the club sends a younger player out on loan who gets minutes and experience they were otherwise going to miss out on at Arsenal. They are challenged at a level best suited for where they are in their development and return to Arsenal more suited to challenge for the next level. Or perhaps a loan is used to get a more senior, and expensive, player off the wage bill for that season. Sometimes it’s a young player out for a test to determine if they have the potential to remain in the system.
There is a bit of everything in part two day. Perhaps one or two of these players will come back to Arsenal and eventually make their way into Mikel Arteta’s team. Whether that’s this year or farther down the line only time will tell.
Part 1 - Ryan Alebiosu, Tim Akinola, Daniel Ballard, Folarin Balogun, Hector Bellerin, Harry Clarke & Matteo Guendouzi.
Player/Age/Position: Karl Hein, 20, GK
Season overview & Outlook: It’s hard for an academy player to break through to the first team at the same club. It’s even more difficult as a goalkeeper. But keep an eye on Hein for the next few years. Impressive with the Arsenal U23s and starting for Estonia in World Cup qualification, he joined Reading in the Championship for the back half of the campaign. He made five consecutive starts and was coming off back-to-back wins before a finger injury ended his season in February. That ruined his chance to shine in the Championship and feature in Estonia’s most recent fixtures. Next season will he get a full-year loan in the Championship? With Ramsdale the #1 and Matt Turner coming in as the #2, will Arsenal look for an experienced keeper as an emergency backup or opt for either Hein or Okonkwo in that role while they start for the U23s?
Player/Age/Position: Tyreece John-Jules, 20
Club: Blackpool (First Half) & Sheffield Wednesday (Second Half)
Season overview & Outlook: John-Jules spent the first few months in the Championship, continuing to gain experience, but failing to find a scoring form. Then in search of more playing time and productivity, he joined League One side Sheffield Wednesday in January. But that didn’t happen. After subbing on in his first match, injury and fitness issues plagued John-Jules for the rest of the season. While the likes of Folarin Balogun have continued to progress up Arsenal’s ladder, he is left trying to rebound from yet another injury setback. He’s been at Arsenal since 2009 but will need a swift turn in fortunes to see his path to the first team begin to rebuild.
Player/Age/Position: Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 24, RM/RB
Season overview & Outlook: Europa Conference League winner playing for Roma under manager Jose Mourinho. Who would have predicted that sentence about Maitland-Niles a year ago? He played sparingly for Arsenal in the first half of the season, failing to find harmony with Mikel Arteta, his place on the pitch or within the squad. Early on he found a role within Roma’s system, but as the season pressed on he was relegated to the bench the majority of the time. With one year left on his current deal, it is expected that Arsenal will look to sell him this summer to another English club. A fresh start for Maitland-Niles and hopefully a place where he can settle into a starting role.
Player/Age/Position: Pablo Mari, 28, CB
Season overview & Outlook: Mari was an unexpected signing, not because of the unfamiliarity fans had, but because Arsenal was signing a center back from South America in his late 20s. Sure it could have worked out, but the odds were low. Instead, after featuring in the opening two losses, Mari was left out of the squad for the rest of the early part of the season with Arsenal. The club then opted to play with just three senior CBs in January as they sent Mari to Serie A. There he became a starter, playing 15 times, scoring twice, and helping Udinese finish midtable. They reportedly want to sign Mari full-time and Arsenal are open to selling him to fund the required squad upgrades needed for next season. Cash in and move on.
Player/Age/Position: Konstantinos Mavropanos, 24, CB
Club: VfB Stuttgart
Season overview & Outlook: Yes, he is already confirmed to be leaving the club as soon as the transfer window opens, but we cannot have a long Arsenal loan review with Mr. Loan himself, Mavropanos. Despite arriving in 2018 for just over $2 million, Mavropanos played a grand total of eight matches for Arsenal. In fact, he featured more for the Arsenal U23s - 17 games. Instead, he’s built his career in Germany across the top two divisions and will soon be a full-time player for Stuttgart. 33 matches, five goals, and one assist as he helped them battle successfully away from the relegation zone. His $3.5m transfer fee, is technically a net gain for Arsenal, but a piece of me wishes we had gotten the chance to see him play regularly for the Gunners.
Player/Age/Position: Jordan McEneff, 21, CM
Season overview & Outlook: This was McEneff’s first professional experience as he spent half a season on loan in the Irish Premier Division. 13 appearances split across right and left midfield, he helped Shelbourne finish comfortably midtable and just seven points away from European qualification. This summer Arsenal will need to decide if he continues with the club on a new deal and another loan or if he is released.
Player/Age/Position: Nikolaj Möller, 19, FW
Club: Viktoria Köln & FC Den Bosch
Season overview & Outlook: It’s not often that Arsenal pays a transfer fee for a young academy player. Möller’s arrival in October 2020 for half a million turned a few heads. Where would he slot in with the likes of Folarin Balogun or Tyreece John-Jules? He proceeded to score seven goals and provide three assists in 17 matches for the U23s. This season he split his time between the third division in Germany (Viktoria Köln) and the second tier in the Netherlands (FC Den Bosch). While those clubs won’t garner headlines, Möller continued his progress with a goal or assist about every 2.5 matches. The question now is what level of competition can Arsenal secure for the young forward to give him a more realistic test next season and evaluate his future potential for the first team?
Player/Age/Position: Reiss Nelson, 22, Winger
Season overview & Outlook: A successful loan stint at TSG Hoffenheim in 2018-19 had fans wondering if Nelson could become an impact player at Arsenal. Then Pepe and Willian arrived, shuffling Nelson back down the U23s or at best the bench. This season provided Reiss with a second chance at regular senior-level football. 32 matches, four goals, and eight assists saw his playing time double and a big increase in his ability to provide scoring chances. Feyenoord finished third in the Everdise and was on the losing end of that Europa League Conference Final. With one year left on his current deal, will Mikel Arteta look to fold him into Arsenal’s young attacking group as Pepe is shopped around? Or will the club elect to cash in on him, like Joe Willock, and bring in a different player to support Bukayo Saka on the right?
Tomorrow we will wrap up this series looking at William Saliba, Lucas Torreira, Auston Trusty, a pair of U23 right-backs, and more.