The Arsenal loan players that could have helped us to get a Top Four place

The idea of a loan deal was once designed to give a young Arsenal player a chance to have more minutes on the pitch. Arsenal have long used this method as part of a youngster’s development.

Recently though we have used this market as a form of getting individuals off the wage bill, largely because clubs refuse to pay a transfer fee for a talent on too high a salary. Because other owners are aware of the Kroenke’s priority to save money, they are not going to invest one large sum when they know the Gunners will lend you that asset for a season while paying part of their earnings.

So where once a loanee would think a successful campaign would earn them an opportunity at their parent club, those In power at the Emirates will be thinking how much an assets value increased.

Apart from Saliba (and that’s arguable), the majority of these loans were not approved with the players best interests in mind. Therefore, you couldn’t blame the majority for feeling they got the last laugh over their employers. At the very least they proved their doubters wrong.

It’s rare that the most successful players at your club are those elsewhere.

Bellerin and Maitland Miles are the only Gunners who lifted a trophy, Reiss Nelson featured in a European Final, Torreira has qualified for the UEFA Conference League, Bellerin the Europa, Saliba and Guendouzi the Champions League.

Guendouzi and Saliba – Marseille
The duo have helped Marseille return to the Champions League, enhancing their growing reputation in France which led to both being capped for the first time.

Both futures couldn’t be more opposite though. If Marseille’s president gets his way, he would have the two back full time next season. Clauses have been activated to trigger a permanent deal for Guendouzi. That Arsenal would agree to an obligation to buy for just 11 million highlights their desperation to reduce the wage bill. In today’s market, the 23-year-old is worth so much more then what we will end up getting.

Bear in mind, he’s only a year older than Lokonga.

This is an example of Arteta’s failure to get the best out of the resources he has.
The midfielder’s reaction to a loss at Brighton in 2020 was to boast about his earnings. Rightfully a horrible side of his personality.

A refusal to apologize or take accountability meant he would never pull on a red and white shirt again, despite his manager promising last summer everyone had a fresh chance.

He hasn’t been shy in wanting Saliba to stay with him at the Velodrome. Nor has President McCourt or his National press. Quite simply his homeland are amazed that a defender good enough to be selected by the World Champions has been deemed not good enough for one of the worst Arsenal squads in decades.

At first it was viewed a then teenager’s duty of care was being prioritised. The then 19-year-old moved to England after the death of his parents and during COVID. Arsenal felt it be better he spend the Pandemic closer to family and friends. The only issue being the centre back didn’t agree and never felt part of the action plan.

Named Ligue 1 Young Player of the Season, Saliba doesn’t seem against staying where he is and playing in the Champions League. Although they have zero option to buy, Marseille want to test the water.

If a player who cost us 27 million never kicks a ball for us, that would be the biggest waste of money in our history.

Bellerin – Real Betis
One of two Gunners with a winner’s medal to show for this campaign. Don’t downplay what winning Copa Del Rey means to the 27-year-old, as he grew up a Real Betis supporter and there he is helping end their 17 years wait for a trophy.

If anyone is entitled to feel he got the last laugh over Arsenal, it could be the Spaniard. He was being left out for the likes of Cedric and Chambers.

Off the pitch he was being mocked for his love of fashion and bids to protect the environment.

In reality, the full back has been at the club for a decade and contributed to 3 FA Cups. The only thing he ever did wrong was suffer serious injuries which robbed him of his pace.

The Full back said he fell in love with football again in Spain which tells you where his heart is at, but Betis can’t get near his 100,000-pound a week wages.

I would sell Cedric and keep the 27-year-old as cover. Don’t put it past our board to essentially release a player with 12 months left on his contract.

Maitland Niles – Roma
The other Gunner with a winners medal this season, as an unused sub in the UEFA Conference League.

My favourite debate on JustArsenal remains a reader who said Niles was better than Kante despite being nothing more than a makeshift full back for us.

Having rejected a loan move from Everton, Arteta had a heart to heart with the 24-year-old and tried to find a club where he could play him in midfield.

That a move to Roma was authorised when 2 DMs were at the African Cup of Nations tells you everything. If Niles could realise he’s not the midfielder he thinks he is and embraces left or right back, he could stay.

If not, we should have taken that 20 million Wolves were willing to pay a couple of years ago.

Reiss Nelson – Feyenoord
There’s an embrace after the Conference League Final between our two academy graduates. While Niles walked away with the winner’s medal, it’s Nelson who’s loan has been more impressive with over 20 games in Holland and 10 in Europe.

Feyenoord were not impressed with the winger’s fitness when he arrived.

Perhaps the biggest positive is the 22-year-old seems more educated about training and eating healthy.

Could be a squad player for us next season?

Torreira – Fiorentina
Had an impressive season in Serie A helping Fiorentina return to Europe. Despite this, he is not in Arteta’s plan and doesn’t want to be, seemingly homesick the moment he arrived in North London.

After the death of his mother, the midfielder’s father begged Arsenal to lower their valuation so he could return to South America. The fact before and after he’s settled in Italy proves England was the problem.

The player’s agent feels Fiorentina are back tracking over an agreed price per appearances. They most likely are calling our bluff, knowing a player who was lonely in the Capital, with 12 months left of his contract, not wanted by his manager – we don’t hold many cards.

Mari – Udinese
Played all but two games since his loan move. Udinese have zero option or obligation to buy though.

There has been talk that Edu is interested in using the defender in a swap deal for Molina.

Writing this I can’t help but think back to January when we were able to get the NLD postponed due to a lack of players.

Saliba, Torreira and Guendouzi are good enough for our first team. Bellerin and Niles are just as good as Cedric.

Arsenal had players who could have made our squad stronger and maybe could have helped achieve the Top Four, but the priority was slashing the wage bill.

Be Kind In the comments

Dan Smith

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Tags Lucas Torreira Mari Saliba


  1. Really nice article on what could’ve been done better and hopefully same mistakes won’t be repeated in the future not unlike the other one finding excuses left, right, up, down, back, front and centre.

    Injuries were the cause? Who was thinning the squad without considering that certainty at the same time giving players away for free and loaning half the squad?

  2. None of the loanee players would have made any difference. Arsenal had a four points lead with 3 games to go.

    1. You say that but I think Guendozi would have played instead of Elneney , Saliba instead of Holding
      Bellerin instead of Tavares or Cedric

    2. We had issues in midfield this season and had to call on Patino in a vital knock out game,
      Niles and Guendouzzi could have been helpful.
      Sailba too could have filled a void when Gabriel was suspended or White unfit.
      We decided to save money at the expense of the FA and Carabao as you remember we couldn’t play Niles just one more game before letting him go for fear of any injuries.
      Then there is the Auba thing, may be could have been handled better

    3. Before the last three games when we lost three straight matches, Guendozi, Saliba, Toreira and ofcourse, Niles would have made a big difference. How can you loan out players like Niles, a utility player who can cover up many positions? We cry of lack of leaders and yet, you loan out Guendozi. All these point out to the fact that our coach lacks experience and man management. Forget about all the talk of cutting down the wage bill

    4. Mistakes are not just mistakes at this level of they are negligence. By not signing players in January or by not be having some of our top quality loanees around, 4th place and Champions League qualification were thrown away. Supporters dreams burst like a pin in a balloon. Poverty struck negligence by Edu/Arteta. Like Boris Johnson they have got away with the lazy, careless, negligent approach which has been couched in pretend language. Not buying in January = negligence. Sadly Conte bought two quality players and they were the difference that earned them Champions League. Conte wins Leagues.

  3. A really good article; smart but unbiased evaluations. (Although I miss Mavropanos from the picture.)

    The part about “Arteta’s failure to get the best out of the resources he has” says it all. That doesn’t make Mikel an incompetent coach, but this is really his weak suit.

    Nevertheless the issue is about money. As Fairfan said we should have reached #4 independent from the loanees, and it wouldn’t make much sense to keep or recall players to give them 270 minutes (half) a season.

    The underlying issue is depreciating Arsenal property, like Aubameyang, Guendouzi, Mavropanos, and I expect we will sell Leno, Bellerin, AMN and Torreira way below their far value. Leaving the club less competitive for top talents.

  4. All of these players were here before and they’ve all been average, so I don’t see the point you’re trying to make with what ifs and buts.
    The only arguable one there is Saliba, but also there’s a strong argument for the decision to loan him and against.
    If he had stayed, there was no way he’d have had this much game time and improved himself this much.
    Holding that was kept in his, how many games did Holding start? Even when Holding was called to come contribute as a sub, he has a great record for helping us shut the defense whenever he came in as a sub. So I don’t really see anything wrong there.
    The other one I could question would be Torriera, but let’s not pretend over 2 season he wasn’t complaining about being homesick and the weather in London while trying to get away from the club himself.
    Nelson needed the loan as he needed to gain his self confidence on the pitch. Sending him on loan was good.
    Better off not talking bout Guendouzi.
    That would be beating a dead horse.
    Mari has been pissful poor for us, so I don’t know why you thought he would’ve made a difference.

    Wasn’t AMN the one who came out crying with emojis he just wants to go out to where he can play?
    He played the public PDA card and the manager sent him out on loan. He wanted it.

    The key losses to our drop in form was losing Partey and Tierney and Tomiyasu

    1. Hard to say about Saliba, can’t know for sure.

      IMHO he is talented enough to compete and push White and Gabriel, even before his loan.

      White isn’t worth 50 million (he didn’t set that price) as Brighton hasn’t missed him at all. Bissouma knits things together and clearly more valuable and impactful than White.

      I’m not convinced White is that much better than Saliba, it’s not like he had a ton more experience in PL than Saliba.

      What’s done is done, but article proposes some interesting “what ifs.”

    2. Sir, thank you so much you’re very reasonable. I just don’t understand the ifs and buts in this article either.

  5. I agree with this article, Arsenal’s strongest possible 11 should always take priority. It is Arteta’s job to make the most of what you already got.

    4 players for me should have definitely been kept on to beef up our squad. Saliba, Guendouzi, Bellerin, Aubameyang.

    Auba, I would play on the left side again as he usually scores when played out there. Bellerin, he would have been a good stand in, or tactical tweak if needed.
    Guendouzi is defensively sound and has a presence about him, could have filled in for Partey, or covered Xhaka’s red-rum phases.
    I can see reasons for the others that you brought up too, like Niles filling in at LB.

    This season -Tavares, Holding, Lokonga, Nketiah, Elneny, Cedric, have proved that they are not good enough for a top four place. When you target second team players you are aiming for lower class players. Your bench should be filled by players with the first team in mind. There isn’t an obvious drop off in quality that way, or it’s less noticeable.

  6. AMN wanted to leave Arsenal and play in midfield – nothing to do with wages
    Torreira doesn’t like life in London and wanted to leave – nothing to do with wages
    Guendouzi crossed the red line and Arteta wanted him out – nothing to do with wages
    Saliba was obviously not trusted enough by Arteta to play in our central défense aged 20 and the club opted to loan him out again – nothing to do with wages

    Why do you interpret every move Arsenal make as an attempt to cut the wage bill?

    The club has spend over half a billion on player transfer fees in the past 4-5 years.

    The days all available cash would go towards paying off the stadium are long gone.

    There’s money at Arsenal and it is being spent (not always wisely unfortunately!)

    1. I agree though that we were at least one defender short and this may have cost us Top4 this season.
      The squad was too thin

    2. How do I interpret a transfer window where Arsenal reduced the wage bill as Arsenal reducing the wage ?
      It’s because they reduced the wage bill lol

        1. And players Arsenal think have no future at the club?

          If the owners only think of reducing the wage bill why did they offer Nketiah a 100k/week contract?
          And Arteta an increase contract too?
          And Elneny a new contract?

          1. First of all,they were offered contract extensions just recently,knowing we were back in Europe, secondly by doing so the club will save tens of millions by not having to sign new players.

            1. I agree Siamois that extending their contracts is a good deal for the club.

              But if the owners were only I retested in cutting the wage bill they wouldn’t have offered Nketiah 100k/week

              Promoting Balogun is way cheaper

  7. These were the players that got Emery the sack & we were down to 8th twice. Agree that Mikel is a rookie, but Emery is a respected (not on this forum) and decorated coach and got us nothing for all his efforts. So rotten and toxic was the dressing room.
    Was not Torrera complaining about everything including the weather except football? Was not AMN a waste at WBA? We needed new players and that is what Mikel has done, and it has been proved right with a 5th place finish and we could have gone as high as third had it not been injuries. Ramsdale, Odegard. Tomiyasu have been revelations. This season with Ramsdale in the goal may be the only season where we have not been spanked. We rubbed shoulders with City and Pool and downed CFC. Let us feel good about something that Mikel has done and is on the correction path each transfer window, The usual suspects with baggage of negativity and gloom. Maybe they will never forgive Mikel for booting out their golden boy who now seems to be creating problems at Turkey.

  8. Are all these players goal scorers?
    If they are known for their goal scoring then I can get behind the notion that they could have helped..
    We struggled for goals and that was the biggest issue in my opinion.

    We needed players that could put the ball at the back of the net. How many of our loanees are smashing goals in?

    1. Didn’t in January we have eleneny , Partey and Xakha not available forcing us to play Lokonga ?
      Didn’t we have to play a tired Partey days after he came back from Africa ?.
      I’m sure i heard gooners say white and Gabriel were not fit at Newcastle ?
      Didnt we have to play Cedric right back since Jan ?
      Didn’t we have issues at left back ?

  9. I’d say one of Artetas more damning mistake was the sale of callum chambers especially the window he was sold. CC would have covered for Tomiyasu as he is better than Cedric Soares who would have covered the LB position better than tavarez .
    Well that’s all in the past now . Let’s get Saliba and Niles back into the team, I hope MA has learnt some valuable lessons this season.

    1. Niles ain’t good though. He has been warming the bench at Roma. Funny thing is he didn’t want to play as a full back but Mourinho still played him there at Roma. I’d rather they sell him off!

  10. We lacked and still lack goal scorers mostly.
    How many of our loanees did that for the clubs they were loaned to?

  11. Many of those players got Emery sacked. Some did not help wenger keep his job too. Most of them helped us get two 8th place finishes.

    Not having a CM on Partey’s level or even better. Having 3 strikers that couldn’t score enough goals (Auba, Laca, Nketia, Balogan etc)..

    And Arteta’s tactics / sometimes over cautious attitude did not help on the pitch. But that’s all in the past, he has another summer window to make amends. If he fails and get sacked then he can’t complain, he would have been given enough time and leeway..

  12. In AMNs last match for AFC, he put in a MOTM performance in midfield and was never heard or seen of again. When has that ever happened to any player on any team, anywhere…
    Yet, you have the ojt coach defenders brining up nonsense about his spell at WBA or his want of more playing time.
    AMN is streets ahead of both Elneny and Xhaka. IJS

      1. @LeGunner
        Took him long enough to accomplish that, considering how long he’s been playing in that position. Yeah, that Elneny…And at least he wasn’t banished into the wilderness afterwards. Heck, he even got a contract extension…IJS

  13. Sorry but do you not think a lot of what you’ve written is already known by everyone.. my biggest issue is why look back? We learn nothing from it and all it does is create negativity. The players and management know a hell of a lot more but I think we have to accept whatever we do this summer would not have been possible if we changed what we did. The money we saved will make up a large chunk of our budget just remember this. I’m sure if arteta had the benefit of hindsight he wouldn’t make any mistakes but he doesn’t. He has to make yes or no decisions with a lot more info than we have. We won’t actually know whether arteta was right this season until the end of next season….

    1. Arsenal need Guendouzi and Saliba to help them win top four battle, and also top striker like victor Osieme.

  14. Its difficult to know if loan players could have helped the team, but on Saliba what i know in EPL, one needs pace and power to thrive, am not sure if Saliba has pace. May be they can try to play him in the middle field.

    AMN could have helped at the right back

    1. @MK
      Ask Mbappe if Saliba has pace and power…Try watching him play before making such comments next time.

  15. If there was no VAR we would have finished 4th, but of course, if my aunt had a **** she would have been my uncle😊

    1. @Declan
      And if we had a manager who knew what he was doing, we might have come 3rd…IJS

  16. It’s too late to cry now when the head is off. We will pick ourselves up and go again.

  17. Guendouzi, Niles, Torriera, Nelson.. Honestly the presence of these players could have seen AFC slip to 10th..

  18. Nice article Dan.

    We value levelling the books more than giving ourselves a chance of success on the field. But, again this is hardly surprising with SK at the helm;)

    All those loanees are imo better than what we have as cover and a mixture of emphasis on book balancing, not thinking we might need cover (coz we don’t get injuries ever 🙄 ), and failing to replace players with sufficient quality is why we are where we are and why we continue to fail.

    We are schoolboy in our operations we really are. City embarrass us on the field but most importantly iff it in the decision making and decisive and well planned actions of it.

    Have a good weekend all. Time to enjoy the champions league and some proper footie without biting my fingers down to the bone everytime under pressure players (Tavares) get the ball! 😱🤯

  19. Let’s assume we retain them all, without European competition, do you honestly think they would be happy? Can we have a unified dressing room with indiscipline from like of Auba and Guendozi

  20. Were when those decisions were taken by Arsenal to loan out their players whom they’ve loaned out across 2 window last season not done in the best interest of the team progress?
    I believe the club has genuine reasons for their taken those decisions which they took. Which of course were taken in the best interest of the team at heart.

    But were not taken to harm or hurt any particular Gunner or a set of them at the club. But were faithfully taken to protect the club’s interest at the point in time when they were taken I so believe.

    Nevertheless as Arsenal have moved on since those loan out decisions were taken. And have finished 5th last season to quality for next season’s Europa League Cup competition after loaning out some of their players whom they’ve deemed surplus to requirements.
    However let us not be dwelling much on this loan out issue. But start focusing on how us should be advising Arteta and Edu correctly on their efforts to properly upgrade and strengthen the Arsenal first team squad for the club’s next season’s campaign.

  21. Nice unbiased article Dan, just as it is/was, no argument really. Many many mistakes made by Edu and Arteta, that cost us CL football.

  22. What if’s are certainly interesting and fun for fans to banter about. It is certainly something that I engage in with other fans on a regular basis. The problem with what if’s is that there are mutliple angles to argue them from and none of them can be proven. Would Arsenal have Arsenal done better had we kept some or all of our loan players? Maybe. But maybe we would have done worse. Maybe the dressing room would have been more toxic due to players that were not getting playing time and maybe as a result Arsenal would have won fewer games. On the one hand Arteta had more information than we did when making these decisions – on the other hand we are debating in hindsight which highlights information that we now know that Arteta did not know when he made his decisions.

  23. It was January that cost us.

    A whole back 4 left,
    AMN, Chambers Mari, Kolasinac

    That cover would have got us the 3 points required, when we had injuries, etc

    People say it was the lack of signings and yes may be putting all our eggs in one basket over Vlahovic was wrong? But those players leaving left us short at the back, we didn’t even need to win a match, a draw with spurs would have been enough

  24. Poor decision making by Arteta cost us fourth place. Out upfront was completely blunt after the departure of Auba. For next season. We need two good strikers, a midfielder and winger. Also, Guendouzi and Saliba should be brought back into the team. As coach, Arteta should be able to manage team attitudes and not letting them go.

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