The 22 players sent out on loan by Arsenal in 2020-21 – & how they fared

Quick Reads

What was a bitterly disappointing 2020-21 campaign somehow ended in Arsenal finishing just six points adrift of the top four in the Premier League. 

It won’t paper over the cracks for many fans, but it does show that the Gunners are not as far from where they want to be as many initially feared.

Could the answers to some of their problems lie within one of the 22 players sent out on loan by the club this season? We’ve taken a look at how each of them got on.

Konstantinos Mavropanos

Mavropanos signed a new deal with Arsenal in July 2020 before being shipped out to Stuttgart for the season.

There, the Greek centre-back was reunited with Sven Mislintat, the man who had scouted him for the Gunners in 2018, and he has impressed in the Bundesliga.

Particularly eye-catching was how the 23-year-old bounced back from a lengthy lay-off with a meniscus injury. He missed five weeks with the setback in October but returned to play in 20 games.

Zech Medley

The big centre-back was sent to Gillingham on loan in August and made 12 appearances in the first half of the season but struggled to nail down a permanent spot in Steve Evans’ side.

In January, the 23-year-old was recalled by the Gunners and sent north of the border for a spell with Kilmarnock.

He started regularly over his first weeks at the club but fell out of favour in the second half of the season as they were relegated from the Premiership. However, he clearly did enough to impress Belgian side Oostende, who are reportedly now interested in his services, according to Het Nieuwsblad.

Zak Swanson

Right-back Swanson was sent to Dutch side MVV Maastricht, but things did not work out for the 20-year-old.

He made just three appearances for the second-tier side before suffering a serious knee injury. He was recalled in January to undergo surgery.

Trae Coyle

Coyle’s season looks eerily similar to that of Medley’s.

The winger was also sent out on loan to League One with Gillingham and also struggled to nail down a spot in the side. He did manage a couple of goals at least.

The 20-year-old was also recalled in January but has been impressing in the Under-23s instead of enjoying another spell on loan.

Ben Sheaf

Sheaf is definitely one of the success stories to come from Arsenal’s loanees this season.

He was sent to Coventry City in the summer on a season-long deal and was a regular in Mark Robins’ side, making 30 Championship appearances.

The defensive midfielder saw his season cut short through injury, but it would not be a surprise to see the 23-year-old land a permanent move to the second tier this summer.

READ: The 7 players Arsenal signed alongside Alexis Sanchez and how they fared

Matt Smith

The midfielder enjoyed two separate spells in League One this season.

In the summer, he was sent out on loan to newly-promoted Swindon Town where he impressed, making 24 appearances and scoring two goals.

His form was rewarded with another loan move to League One promotion chasers Charlton Athletic on deadline day in February. However, the 20-year-old made just eight appearances before being dropped from the matchday squad by Nigel Adkins.

Jordi Osei-Tutu

Right-back Osei-Tutu was given a brilliant opportunity when he was sent to Cardiff City on loan back in the summer of 2020.

But it all ended badly, with the 22-year-old suffering a serious hamstring injury in October that was swiftly followed by ankle ligament damage, resulting in his early return to Arsenal at the start of May.

Tyreece John-Jules

Doncaster Rovers was the destination for John-Jules this season, and the striker enjoyed a fruitful second spell away from the Emirates.

In total, he made 21 appearances for Rovers, scoring five goals and assisting three more. He even won the League One Goal of the Month award for a strike against Charlton in September.

Mark McGuinness

McGuiness spent time in League One this season, signing for Ipswich Town for the 2020-21 campaign back in the summer transfer window.

He made 24 appearances for the third-tier Tractor Boys, scoring one goal, and the 20-year-old will have no doubt learned a lot from both Paul Lambert and Paul Cook in his first spell away from North London.

Daniel Ballard

While many Arsenal loanees have suffered disappointment this season, Ballard’s could still end in a promotion with Blackpool at Wembley.

Arriving in the North West in January, Ballard’s impact was immediate. When he joined, the Seasiders sat in 18th place. At the end of the league season, they had risen to third.

The centre-back played the full 90 minutes of their 3-0 play-off first-leg win against Oxford United, even providing an assist, and featured for another 45 minutes the second leg.

Matteo Guendouzi

Ah, Guendouzi, one of Arsenal’s most Marmite figures of recent years. Sadly for the Frenchman, Mikel Arteta appeared to fall into the hate category. Or at least the ‘not a massive fan’ category.

It does not appear that a loan spell with Hertha Berlin has changed the 22-year-old either, with the 2020-21 campaign proving just as unpredictable as you would expect.

He did play 24 times before suffering a metatarsal injury in May, but he was not always in the good books of manager Pal Dardai. In February, after Guendouzi had given a silly goal away by throwing himself to the ground, Dardai rather bizarrely said: “It’s like puberty for him, he’s kind of a rebel. He has to work and learn like an animal.”

READ: Saliba next? Eight players who became Arsenal regulars after a loan away

Lucas Torreira

Much like Guendouzi, Torreira looked at one stage like he was the answer to the Gunners’ long-term midfield problems.

But that did not prove to be the case, and he was shipped out on loan to Atletico Madrid last summer. After racking up 19 La Liga appearances, he leaves Spain with a winners’ medal as well.

He was used very sparingly by Diego Simeone, however, and would like to return to South America. His mother sadly died after contracting Covid-19 and Torreira’s wish is to move to Boca Juniors so he can be closer to his family.

Whether Arsenal will allow him – a valuable asset – to leave so easily, is another matter. In April, Mikel Arteta said: “We have spoken to him and we know how difficult a time this is for him. He was really attached to his mum and he’s really attached to his family.

“It’s a hard time for him and emotionally there is a lot of thoughts that will go through his mind. When things are like that, it’s not the moment to make decisions.”

Dejan Iliev

Goalkeeper Iliev moved to Shrewsbury in October, making just three appearances before returning to Arsenal at the end of January.

In those three appearances, the 26-year-old kept one clean sheet and conceded three goals. Not bad.

Tolaji Bola

Bola was sent to League One strugglers Rochdale in October and made just 11 appearances before returning to north London in January. Sadly, Dale dropped down to League Two at the end of the season.

It is likely another spell away on loan will follow for the 22-year-old next term.

Harry Clarke

Like Bola, Clarke was sent to the North West on loan, heading to League Two Oldham Athletic, where he became an integral part of the team.

In total he made 32 appearances in the fourth tier, scoring once and assisting another. Could a spell higher up the pyramid be in store next season?

Joe Willock

There was not much made of Willock’s loan move to Newcastle United when it went through at the end of the January transfer window. But with summer just around the corner, he is suddenly the name on everyone’s lips.

Eight goals for the Magpies saw him drag Steve Bruce’s side well clear of relegation trouble and the fans are desperate to see him return to the North East on a permanent deal.

In April, Bruce said: “He’s got a big future. He’s the right type, the right profile – you’d love to build a team around a young player like Joe. If there’s a chance to bring him here next season, I’d love to get it done.”

Where he ends up remains to be see, yet whether his future is with Arsenal, Newcastle or somewhere else entirely, it suddenly looks a lot brighter.

READ: ‘God-like status’ – 10 quotes on Joe Willock’s incredible form at Newcastle

James Olayinka

Olayinka was sent out on loan to Southend United at the start of the season, a club that has not been in the best fettle for a while now.

The midfielder made 20 appearances for the Shrimpers and scored two goals. An admirable effort, although it was always going to take a lot more to save the club from the drop into non-league.

Tom Smith

Smith was sent to Dover in October and made three appearances for the National League side.

However, when they decided to stop playing as a result of the financial constraints that came with putting on games with no fans, he returned to the Emirates.

Sead Kolasinac

Kolasinac made over 100 appearances for the Gunners between 2017 and 2021 but was sent out on loan by Arteta during the January transfer window to Schalke.

The Bosnian could do little to halt the German giant’s slide into the second tier, however. He made 18 appearances and scored one goal.

At the end of the campaign, they were 19 points adrift of safety. Emphatic.

William Saliba

Saliba is a player that many Arsenal fans still have high hopes for, and he impressed in Ligue 1 with Nice after moving on loan in January for the remainder of the campaign.

He played every minute of all but two league games after arriving, scoring once, picking up Nice’s player of the month award in January and helping the club to a ninth-place finish.

Yet when quizzed about Saliba’s Arsenal future in May, in light of the news that David Luiz would be leaving the club, Arteta gave a slightly cryptic response: “You will see in the summer, the possible replacement. William is our player for sure and that’s the decision that we’re going to be taking soon.

“We will make a decision based on the agreement of the role that each player is going to have in the squad.”

READ: ‘Boss of the defence’ – What people are saying about William Saliba’s fine form

Joseph Olowu

Olowu made the move to non-league Wealdstone in February 2021, agreeing a deal until the end of the season.

In total, he made 12 appearances in the National League and will no doubt be looking to take another step up the pyramid next season.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

The versatile youngster was in and out of the Arsenal squad during the first half of the season but landed a move to West Brom until the end of the campaign in January.

There, he played regularly in his favoured midfield role, and although the Baggies were eventually relegated, he showed that he can more than hold his own in that position in the top flight.


More Arsenal

Remember hope, Arsenal fans? Nicolas Pepe is dishing it out in spades

Gilberto Silva discusses career highs and Arsenal’s failure to replace him

How the Arsenal Invincibles helped the kids on the fringes launch their careers

Can you name Arsenal’s XI from the 2005 FA Cup final against Man Utd?

Planet Football Stories