The Gunners sent a clutch of young players out on loan this season, with many gaining valuable experience at clubs across various levels of the English Football League
Arsenal are hoping to clinch a long-awaited Champions League return.
The Gunners are in pole position to seal a top-four finish in the Premier League. They can guarantee that with a win over arch rivals Tottenham on Thursday night.
If they do come away from the home of Spurs with all three points it will ensure a place in Europe’s premier competition for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Whilst attentions are firmly on the task in hand, it will not be long before pre-season creeps up on boss Mikel Arteta.
And he has a number of decisions to make with regards to the future of not only senior stars but those on the cusp of the first team. A number of youngsters have spent the past season out on loan, with many enjoying spells in the EFL. Here, Mirror Football runs the rule over them and assesses what is next for them.
Striker Balogun was sent out on loan to Championship side Middlesbrough for the second half of the season. The expectation was that he would help a Boro promotion push and return full of vigor to the Emirates in the summer.
The forward signed a long-term contract at Arsenal a year ago and started their first Premier League game of the season, against Brentford. But his loan stint at Boro hasn’t quite gone according to plan. He made 18 Championship outings although only half of those were starts.
In addition he chipped in with three goals and three assists as his temporary employers fell short of the play-offs. He will now be left kicking his heels as not only did Boro miss out on the end-of-season lottery but Premier League rules dictate he is unable to feature in Arsenal’s remaining top flight games this season.
Ballard made 30 appearances during his productive season-long loan stint with Millwall. The Northern Ireland defender continued his progression through the EFL after similar spells in League Two with Swindon, League One with Blackpool and now the second tier with the Lions.
Despite impressing, Millwall boss Gary Rowett expects Ballard to be sent out elsewhere by the Gunners next term. He said: “It’s really simple with Dan. He’s done really well. If Dan was available again we would certainly welcome him back.
“But I don’t expect he will be [coming back to Millwall] Because I think Arsenal will probably seek a different type of challenge for him. It’s what those type of clubs tend to do.” Ballard’s current Emirates contract expires this summer but an option to extend it is set to be triggered.
Estonian goalkeeper Hein joined Reading on a temporary deal back in January. But he made just five appearances before sustaining a freak injury whilst at home in February.
Reading boss Paul Ince said at the time: “He (Hein) fell in his house and took the ligament off his bone in his thumb. So they’re talking four to six weeks out if he doesn’t need surgery, or two months if it does.” Hein is contracted at Arsenal long-term and could well be loaned back out next term once recovered from injury.
Tyreece John Jules
Winger John-Jules spent the first half of the campaign at Championship side Blackpool. He made 11 outings in total but struggled for game time in general, before the deal was cut short in January.
He was then sent to League One promotion-chasers Sheffield Wednesday for the second half of the season but the spell proved a disaster. John-Jules made just one outing – an 18-minute cameo off the bench – before injury ensured he missed the remainder of the Owls’ season.
Osei-Tutu was another who experienced two different loan spells this season. He made just four outings for Nottingham Forest before switching down a league and joining Rotherham in January.
He enjoyed more success in South Yorkshire, making 16 appearances and scoring a vital goal in the Millers’ EFL Trophy final victory over Sutton in April. He capped a fine season by helping Paul Warne’s side to promotion back to the Championship. His deal with him at Arsenal has another year to run but aged 23, he may be at a time in his career where he needs a fresh start.
Midfielder Smith played 43 games for Doncaster in a campaign that ended with relegation from League One. It was his third separate loan stint in the third tier. His future of him at the Emirates remains unclear.
Full-back Alebiosu had his first taste of senior football with a short spell on loan at Crewe. Sadly it would end in disappointment, with Alexandra relegated from League One. Alebiosu made six starts in the third tier. Still only 20, another loan looks on the cards again next term.
Azeez spent the first half of this season out on loan at Portsmouth gaining valuable experience in League One and making six appearances. He has since reintegrated into Arsenal’s under-23s and has occasionally been drafted in to join in with first team training, even featuring on the bench for league games. Still only 19, another spell out in the EFL surely beckons next season.
Centre-half Dinzeyi made just three outings for Carlisle in the first part of the season before a January recall. That included his league debut back in October, with the only other senior outings of his career coming in EFL Trophy matches. He was named in Arsenal’s 25-man Premier League squad for the second part of the season but his status beyond this season is unclear.
The defender, 18, joined Lincoln in the second half of the season and caught the eye. He made 17 appearances and even netted his maiden senior goal in a win over Sheffield Wednesday in March.
He has been earmarked as a potential first-team player of the future, and was offered a new contract back in March by the Gunners with talks still said to be ongoing.