Arsenal have made another decision regarding a member of this season’s loan army with young goalkeeper Tom Smith signing a new contract.
London, Matteo Guendouzi and Konstantinos Mavropanos are set to join Marseille and Stuttgart respectively, whilst the likes of Hector Bellerin, Lucas Torreira and Pablo Mari could all leave permanently when the summer transfer window opens.
That deals with the senior players the Gunners have loaned out this season and the fates of Reiss Nelson, Folarin Balogun, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and William Saliba have been discussed as Mikel Arteta and Edu have some key decisions to make before the 2022/23 campaign gets underway.
With that said, the club appears to be focusing on the academy players currently out on loan following the announcement on Thursday afternoon that Smith has committed his future to the club following an injury disrupted spell with Vanarama National League South outfit Welling United.
“Young goalkeeper Tom Smith has signed a new deal with the club,” a statement on Arsenal.com reads.
“Tom signed his first professional contract with us in December 2019. Since then, our Academy graduate has gone onto make six appearances in the Premier League 2 for our U23s squad.“.
“Tom has also gained valuable experience on loan spells at Salisbury FC, Dover Athletic and most recently with Welling United in the National League South. Everyone at Arsenal would like to congratulate Tom on his new contract and we look forward to seeing his continued development.”
Given Harry Clarke will spend next season on loan at Hibernian, what about the remaining 10 Arsenal academy players who have spent the campaign getting much-needed first-team experience? football.
London assesses who could force their way into Arteta’s plans and who should be sold or loaned out again next season.
Tom Smith isn’t the only academy goalkeeper to have signed a new Arsenal contract this season.
Not too long after the transfer window closed last summer, Karl Hein committed his future to the club before heading out on loan to Championship side Reading in January.
The 20-year-old may not have made a senior breakthrough with the Gunners yet, but he’s already an established Estonia international and was looking to get regular first-team football under his belt with the Royals until a finger injury prevented him from playing a key role in their successful survival bid.
Certainly one for the future and with the Gunners poised to announce a deal for Matt Turner, this may hint at another loan spell for Hein next season as his development will be aided by regular game time instead of operating as a third-choice goalkeeper.
Of the four defenders to have used the 2021/22 season to gain first-team experience, three of them are right-backs.
This is interesting as Arsenal have been tipped to bolster that department in the summer transfer window, which would block a potential pathway for Jordi Osei-Tutu, Ryan Alebiosu and Brooke Norton-Cuffy next season.
The latter has been earmarked as a first-team player in the future, but may need another loan before he’s ready to be Takehiro Tomiyasu’s back-up.
At the age of 23, it’s probably time for Osei-Tutu to seek a permanent move away, while Alebiosu should go out on loan again to aid his development.
A decision must be made regarding Daniel Ballard’s future once he returns from Millwall.
With a League One and Championship loan spell under his belt, the next step is naturally to test himself in the Premier League.
As it’s difficult to see him featuring in Arteta’s plans next season – especially if William Saliba is handed a chance – another loan is on the cards if he’s not sold permanently.
Jordan McEneff signed a contract extension last year and after overcoming an injury nightmare to get a taste of first-team football with Shelbourne, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was released in the summer.
As for Matt Smith, his Doncaster Rovers spell may have ended in disappointment with relegation from League One, but he has put himself in the shop window for a permanent exit from the Emirates Stadium.
With Tim Akinola’s loan spell with Dundee United falling flat due to sustaining an injury that saw him return to his parent club after making just one appearance since arriving in January, he could do with another chance next season to prove he’s ready for senior football.
Both Arsenal forwards will end the season at a different club to where they began the campaign.
The problem is neither Tyreece John-Jules or Nikolaj Moller have pulled up any trees with Blackpool/Sheffield Wednesday and Viktoria Koln/Den Bosch, respectively, which means a big decision may have to be made in the summer.
Mika Biereth’s development this season at U23 level has put him on track for a loan spell next season and Khayon Edwards signing a new contract means they could be the next two strikers that the club has high hopes for – not to mention Folarin Balogun who has been tipped for great things.
So if John-Jules and Moller aren’t going to make it as Arsenal first-team players, what’s best for both players is a permanent exit in the summer.