With the English transfer deadline day having passed, it looks like Arsenal’s u23 squad for the coming season is now set, at least until January. 10 players went out on loan to various leagues in England and across Europe, but perhaps a few more should have followed. Let’s look at who got loans, how they’re doing, and who didn’t get the move they wanted.
Who got loans?
As mentioned, the u23s ended up loaning out 10 players, which isn’t a totally unexpected total. Last season, they loaned out 15, but that’s including those that moved in January.
It’s somewhat surprising the number wasn’t a bit higher this summer, given Arsenal don’t have the Europa League for players to stick around and play in, but the market was particularly difficult.
Daniel Ballard (centre-back) joined Millwall and Tyreece John-Jules (centre-forward) joined Blackpool, another step up the English football pyramid for both of them. After they each spent last season with League One clubs, it will be good for them to test themselves in the Championship.
Similarly, Harry Clarke (centre-back) made the step up from the English League Two to the Scottish Premiership this season, joining Ross County.
Jordi Osei-Tutu (right-back) is going back for his second spell in the Championship, this time with Nottingham Forest, after spending the last campaign with Cardiff City. He couldn’t stay fit during the Cardiff loan, so it makes sense for him to spend another year at the same level.
Matt Smith (central midfielder) is remaining in League One with Doncaster Rovers, after spells with Swindon Town and Charlton Athletic last season. He didn’t feature nearly enough in the second half of last season, so his priority will be consistent games this campaign.
Nikolaj Moller (centre-forward) went to FC Viktoria Koln in the German third tier, which is an interesting one. Generally Arsenal players prefer to drop down the English divisions or play in the top division in a smaller country, but we’ll see how it goes.
Tom Smith (goalkeeper) went on yet another non-league loan, joining Welling United after his loan spells with Dover Athletic and Salisbury FC. The Salisbury loan ended in injury, and he never really broke into the team in Dover, so he’s another who will mostly just be hoping to play regularly.
Dejan Iliev (goalkeeper) effectively ended his Arsenal spell with a loan to SKF Sered. His contract is up at the end of the season and you wouldn’t expect the club to renew, so he’ll likely end his loan and leave North London as a free agent.
Finally, Miguel Azeez (central midfielder) and Jonathan Dinzeyi (centre-back) are getting their first taste of senior football with Portsmouth and Carlisle United respectively.
From the ex-academy group, Reiss Nelson joined Feyenoord and Hector Bellerin joined Real Betis.
How are they doing so far?
Harry Clarke has probably had the best individual start, winning Ross County’s Player of the Month award for August. It’s definitely encouraging that Daniel Ballard and Tyreece John-Jules have both immediately taken up starting roles in the Championship too.
Matt Smith had a setback with Covid-19, and Doncaster Rovers are in terrible form, but he’s at least been starting their matches.
Unfortunately, Tom Smith and Jordi Osei-Tutu have both had early injury setbacks. Neither are expected to be out for much longer, but it’s not the ideal way to start a loan. Nikolaj Moller has also been absent for a few matches, with little information available as to why.
Dejan Iliev has immediately become a starter for Sered, keeping two clean sheets in his first five games in goal and only conceding twice in his last four matches.
Miguel Azeez and Jonathan Dinzeyi are still waiting for their debuts, after completing their loan transfers late in the window.
Who missed out?
Earlier in the transfer window, Arsenal circulated a list of eight u23 players available for loan, but only a few of them ended up getting moves.
Moller, Dinzeyi, and Clarke got loans, Alebiosu was close to a move to Sunderland, but the other four - Ben Cottrell, George Lewis, Tim Akinola, and Zak Swanson - just didn’t find the right club.
In Lewis’ case, an injury hurt his chances, and the fact Cottrell has only just returned from an operation also probably limited the interest in him. But it’s a shame Alebiosu, Swanson and Akinola didn’t find moves because they’ve probably progressed beyond youth football and don’t really have a way into the Arsenal first team yet.
Similarly, James Olayinka’s injury recovery got in the way of any potential move for him. Though he wasn’t on the circulated list, it was somewhat assumed he’d be on the way out after two loan spells in his last two seasons. Instead, he’ll have to settle for u23 minutes and first-team training whenever possible.
It’s certainly not a total disaster for any of the above players to spend another few months with the u23s. You’d just expect all of them to be on the lookout for January transfers.