Arsenal: Loan system must change

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: Lucas Perez of Arsenal looks on during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary's Stadium on January 28, 2017 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: Lucas Perez of Arsenal looks on during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary's Stadium on January 28, 2017 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) /

I predict a huge turnover of personnel over the next twelve months. Arrivals and departures will undoubtedly take the headlines, but I’m more concerned with those who will be returning from loan spells.

Of the current Arsenal squad, there are five senior players currently away on loan. There are another four academy players. I will analyse every single player and discuss whether it would be possible for anyone to force themselves into the first team reckoning on their return.

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I thought Emiliano Martinez‘s loan move would have been really beneficial for all involved. I thought he would come back ready to challenge for the No.1 jersey. Perhaps I was wrong.

With Petr Cech between the sticks, Arsenal needn’t be worried about the position in the short-term. The concern arises when you look long term. Despite the fact that goalkeepers tend to age well, Cech will turn 36 next May. While I feel a new starting goalkeeper is required, there is no one that I would rather them learn from than Cech.

I personally don’t think that David Ospina is a viable long-term alternative and that he will soon be sold to quench his thirst for starting football. He’s made some remarkable saves, but he doesn’t fill me with confidence. I would prefer my goalkeeper to be reliable rather than spectacular.

When Martinez signed a new long-term contract last year, Arsene Wenger said that he thought that Martinez was the future goalkeeper of the club. High praise indeed. The season-long loan move to Getafe CF made complete sense considering the fact that Cech was the undisputed No.1, and Ospina decided against leaving. I thought that Martinez would get regular game-time.

I also thought that Martinez would get regular game-time at the newly promoted Primera División side. But that has not been the case. He’s featured only in the Copa del Rey, occupying the bench for all of Getafe’s league matches.

Matt Macey made his Arsenal debut earlier this season and made some impressive saves when called upon. If Arsenal decide to stay in-house to address the goalkeeper position, you would assume that Martinez and Macey would fight for the No.1 jersey. If neither makes a statement, Arsenal will look elsewhere to shore up the position.

Carl Jenkinson and Cohen Bramall haven’t had the ideal start to life in Birmingham. Jenkinson sustained a dislocated shoulder during his debut, and Cohen Bramall hasn’t featured since Harry Redknapp was sacked. Both men could have capitalised on Arsenal’s lack of depth at the wing-back positions with impressive campaigns, but at this point, it seems that neither will be able to do so. Of course, further time is needed to evaluate the pair, but if things don’t change, Jenkinson looks destined to be sold, while Bramall would likely be given one more chance to prove himself.

Marc Bola is in a similar position at Bristol Rovers. Bola impressed during a loan spell at Notts County earlier this year, and according to this article in the Bristol Post, he has turned some heads in the southwest, despite the fact he has not started since the seventeenth of October:

"“The Arsenal loanee has won many Gasheads over with his energetic performances at left-back. The youngster has given regular full back Lee Brown some real competition and has been a pleasant surprise for Rovers this season. Bola has shown an exciting willingness to get up and down the left flank with real pace and has made important contributions at both ends of the field. His debut performance at Fulham showed all his defensive qualities, while his switch to right-back last month showed his versatility. This from a man who insisted when he joined that he could only really play left-back.”"

If Arsenal do not bring in a new left-sided defender in January, or in the summer, it’s not outside the bounds of probability to think that Bola could carve out a role as the reserve left wing-back.

I’ve personally got a lot of time for Joel Campbell. I’ve written about him before but I’m very aware that he is a marmite player. Since Campbell returned to Real Betis, he has expressed a desire to extend his stay in Spain. Campbell’s contract expires at the end of this season, and as much as I would love for him to succeed as an Arsenal player, that scenario seems incredibly unlikely.

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Besides, with the way that Arsenal currently lineup, the only way that I could see him Campbell fitting into the squad is as a wing-back. I love his industry and his ability to run with the ball, but I think he lacks the quality and the instinct to play in a creative role.

Speaking of the creative role, it is impossible to discuss personnel without discussing Mesut Öziland Alexis Sánchez. It is not inconceivable that one of these players could help to replace one, if not both, of our superstars. That especially true for Lucas Pérez

I’m personally of the opinion that Perez would thrive in the current formation playing behind the striker. However, I think it is unlikely that Pérez would get many minutes even if Özil and Alexis were to leave. Despite his obvious quality, Wenger prefers other players. Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and a new signing would all be ahead of Perez in the pecking order.

While Campbell and Pérez seem to be thriving in Spain, the same cannot be said for Takuma Asano in Germany. Asano was unable to obtain a work permit prior to this season, so Arsenal sent him back to VfB Stuttgart. He’s managed only a single goal in 18 appearances this season (9 starts) and the idea of him being a part of a future Arsenal squad is not incredibly appealing.

Young strikers Stephy Mavididi and Kelechi Nwakali were shipped out to Preston North End and VVV-Venlo respectively during the summer, and similarly to most current Arsenal loanees, contributions to their host clubs have been limited. Mavididi has not managed a goal in ten appearances, while Nwakali has only managed one goal and one assist in twelve appearances.

With Alexandre Lacazette, Danny Welbeck and Eddie Nketiah likely to be here for many years, the likelihood that either Mavididi or Nwakali become crucial players is incredibly unlikely. Like most of Arsenal’s loanees, they will likely be sold, or figure to simply drift into the shadows.

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Something needs to change with the Arsenal loan system. A lack of playing time is a common theme, and that does not bode well for the Arsenal careers of these players.