What to Do with Arsenal’s Players out on Loan

Arsenal's Players Out on Loan
9th March 2019, King Power Stadium, Leicester, England; EPL Premier League Football, Leicester City versus Fulham; Calum Chambers of Fulham (photo by Graham Wilson/Action Plus via Getty Images)

There are currently nine Arsenal players who are spending the season away from the Emirates on loan. While some look to have a bright future in north London, others will likely not play for the Gunners’ first team again. Here is what Arsenal should do with their players out on loan.

Arsenal’s Players out on Loan: Who to Keep, Who to Sell

David Ospina

The Colombian number one joined Arsenal on a free from Nice in the summer of 2014. That season he managed to overtake Wojciech Szczesny as Arsene Wenger’s first choice ‘keeper at the club, playing 18 Premier League matches. Since the arrival of Petr Cech at the Emirates, however, David Ospina has been relegated to the role of backup.

Since his inaugural campaign in England, Ospina has only featured in 11 league matches, instead handling the cup competitions as well as the European games. He was heavily linked with a permanent transfer away from Arsenal this past summer, however, the Colombian elected for a loan opportunity at Napoli.

While Alex Meret holds the coveted number one shirt at Carlo Ancelotti’s side, a shoulder injury kept him out for a large portion of the season, meaning that Ospina has been the de facto first choice in Naples for most of the season.

If he were to return to Arsenal, it would be almost impossible for him to supplant Bernd Leno as number one. As Ospina is 30, he likely would not wish to continue as backup in this stage of his career.

He has also done enough to impress Ancelotti, who said of the possibility of a permanent deal, “Ospina will remain at Napoli next season, regardless of how many games he plays.”

Verdict: sell in the summer.

Calum Chambers

The former Southampton man started his senior career as a right-back at Saint Mary’s Stadium. After making the switch to Arsenal, Wenger wanted to convert him to a centre-back. Now, while on loan at Fulham, Calum Chambers has again changed positions and now mostly plays as a defensive midfielder.

It is safe to say that the 24-year-old is a versatile player. However, it is a bit disconcerting for a footballer to have over a century of Premier League appearances and still not have a clear positional identity. There is such a thing as a late bloomer, but by this stage of their career, most players have a solid idea of where they play best.

Despite this strange fact, Arsenal have missed the player at times this season. Injuries to a number of centre-backs have left the Gunners exposed defensively. This is in addition to the fact that the club is already weak in that position.

While he may not be preferable to Sokratis Papastathopoulos or Rob Holding in the starting XI, Chambers can add something to this squad. It is always useful to have a player who can play multiple positions available come off the bench. He is also under contract until 2022.

Verdict: keep as a squad player.

Emiliano Martinez

Martinez has been at Arsenal since joining the youth ranks in 2010, yet has just 14 first team appearances to his name. Now 26, the Argentine shot-stopper is out on loan for the sixth time as a Gunner.

Goalkeepers take longer than any other players to develop, so seeing a 26-year-old with so little experience isn’t as shocking as in other positions. However, seeing as current first-choice Bernd Leno is just one year older than Emiliano Martinez, it is difficult to imagine he will one day become the Arsenal number one.

To be fair, the player has impressed since joining Reading on loan in January, keeping three clean sheets to date. Sadly for Martinez, this probably won’t be enough to convince Unai Emery to give him the responsibility of becoming Leno’s understudy next season.

It is time to let the player find regular first-team minutes elsewhere.

Verdict: sell in the summer.

Takuma Asano

Takuma Asano signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2016 yet has never played a single minute for the first team. This is partly due to issues gaining a work permit for the player and partly due to a perceived lack of quality.

VFB Stuttgart took a chance on the player while they were in the 2 Bundesliga and extended the loan an extra year after Asano helped them back into the top flight. Last summer another Bundesliga club, Hannover, signed the player on loan for the season.

He has made just six league appearances for the club, however, and does not seem destined for the Arsenal first team.

Verdict: sell in the summer.

Reiss Nelson

Reiss Nelson is one of the more exciting prospects produced by Arsenal in recent seasons. The winger got his first team debut last year under Arsene Wenger, picking up 16 appearances across all competitions.

He followed that up by signing for Julien Naglesmann’s Hoffenheim for the season. Nelson enjoyed a fine start to life in the Bundesliga, scoring six league goals in the first few months of the loan.

Since then, the English winger has cooled somewhat and was even benched for being late to practice. However, on the whole, Nelson has impressed in Germany, racking up 24 appearances in all competitions as of the time of writing.

He is only 19 and looks like he could become a real talent one day. The only question is whether Arsenal should send him on loan to develop for another season or give him a chance in the first team. The answer may lie in the transfer market. If the Gunners sign a winger or two this summer, Reiss Nelson would find opportunities limited and would do better on loan.

Verdict: keep as a squad player unless a good loan opportunity is found.

Emile Smith Rowe

Emile Smith Rowe is about six months younger than Nelson and finds himself in a similar situation. He has impressed when given the opportunity with Arsenal, scoring three goals in six appearances this season. Smith Rowe then went on loan to a Bundesliga club, RB Leipzig in this case.

Much like Nelson, he has found life in Germany a bit difficult this spring. Emile Smith Rowe has yet to make his Leipzig debut as of the time of writing. This is due to a groin injury which he sustained over the winter, leading to a dearth of match fitness.

As far as what Arsenal should do with the player, his fate may also be bound by what the club do in the summer. Smith Rowe plays as a creative midfielder or winger. With Aaron Ramsey leaving for Juventus in the summer, that may give the young man a chance to play.

However, if the club sign a Ramsey replacement, Smith Rowe would be better served by another loan move.

Verdict: keep as a squad player unless a good loan opportunity is found.

Matt Macey

24-year-old goalkeeper Matt Macey joined Arsenal from the Bristol Rovers academy in 2014. It took three years to make his first team debut but he finally got his chance in 2017/18 with two appearances. The Englishman then joined League One club Plymouth Argyle this past summer.

In 31 appearances in the third tier, Macey has kept just three clean sheets, having conceded 56 goals. While the whole club must be blamed for this, that statistic does not flatter the goalkeeper.

24 is not old for any footballer, especially a ‘keeper, but he has played just the two matches for Arsenal. He is too young to make a definitive judgement, however, he will need to be given a chance to succeed or fail at some point soon.

It would probably be best to give him the role of third-choice goalie next season, starting the matches in the Carabao Cup, with the possibility of another loan in January.

Verdict: keep as third-choice ‘keeper.

Krystian Bielik

21-year-old defender Krystian Bielik already has a bad history of injuries. Bielik joined Arsenal from Legia Warsaw in January 2015, earning his first two appearances in the following two seasons.

He got his first of three loan opportunities in January 2017, joining Birmingham City. Krystian Bielik managed ten Championship appearances that season, helping to avoid relegation. Last season, the Pole was unable to play at all due to a series of injuries.

He has recovered enough to join League One side Charlton Athletic this season, where he has earned 28 appearances and has scored his first two senior goals.

The club simply haven’t seen enough of the defender to make a proper determination. Another loan spell, hopefully at a higher level than League One, may show exactly what the player is made of.

Verdict: another loan.

Kelechi Nwakali

The final entrant on this list is Kelechi Nwakali. The 20-year-old midfielder has just 11 top-flight appearances to his name, all while on loan at VVV Venlo in the Eredivisie last season. His other loans include two separate spells with Dutch second division side MVV Maastricht and his current assignment, with Porto B.

This season, with Porto’s B side in Liga Pro, Nwakali has made 15 appearances but has yet to register a goal or assist. Just like with Bielik, Arsenal haven’t really seen much of the player and what they have seen has been at a lower level.

Another loan assignment next season, hopefully at a higher level, would go some way to making a determination on the player.

Verdict: another loan.

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