Arsenal Notebook: Who will come home to the Emirates next season?

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will have quite a few roster decisions to make over the summer. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will have quite a few roster decisions to make over the summer. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /
Arsenal loan returnees
Folarin Balogun (left) has starred for Reims while out on loan from Arsenal. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images) /

What might Arsenal’s roster look like next season

It’s obvious Mikel Arteta’s is the right managerial selection for Arsenal as he has catalyzed success at the club.

The Gunners have secured a second-place finish for the 2022-2023 Premier League season and will be featured in top level European play for the season to come, ending a six-year absence.

With the Gunners marking a return to UEFA Champions League play and additional incentive to challenge Manchester City for a Premier League title next season, the North London squad will need a quality roster to sustain competition.

With reinvigorated ambitions at the Emirates, the club requires no-nonsense, high-level players.

Transfer talks have been flying about like rumors in a school hall with Arteta interested in a handful of new acquisitions. At the same time, there are many Arsenal-owned players set to return from loans.

The question is: who can meet the reinstated high club standards and contribute? Here are a few of the Gunners out on loan

Folarin Balogun 

Recently deciding to compete professionally for the U.S. national team, Balogun has been prolific in Ligue 1 for Reims, netting 19 goals in 34 appearances. The 21-year-old striker has certainly collected attention this season, but will it be enough to earn inclusion on Arsenal’s Premier League roster?

“The plan is that he finishes his period there, assess the situation where he is, where we are, then sit down and plan the next chapter in his developing career,” Arteta said, according to Mirror.

The young academy product could fit the team’s rotation well, but he would be in line behind Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nkhetia, both proving this term that they can push for the club. Also, with Arsenal becoming involved in conversation with a potential Lautaro Martinez move from Inter Milan, the task of securing playing time upfront will be a challenge.

Auston Trusty 

Is the 24-year-old American center-back as reliable as his surname suggests?

Though Birmingham sit 17th in the Championship, Trusty has featured in 44 matches and helped record 13 clean sheets, earning him a Supporters Player of the Season accolade after arriving on loan in January.

With Jakub Kiwior, Gabriel Magalhes, Ben White, William Saliba all available for the same position next season, it could prove difficult for Trusty to find a spot.

Albert Sambi Lakonga

After six appearances for the Gunners at the Premier League’s start, defensive midfielder Sambi Lokonga, 23, went on loan to play under former Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, who controlled the helm at Crystal Palace. Lokonga made nine appearances for the club and showed he is regaining the confidence he once displayed at Arsenal.

Speaking with talkSport, the young Belgian stated, “My goals for the moment are to find myself  to be the Sambi that I have been when I arrived at Arsenal.” His placement for next season is under consideration, both for Lokonga and Arteta; what is sure is the player’s ambitions to improve.

With the desire to build an extremely competitive team to secure more hardware, it’ll be difficult for Lokonga to prove himself against the likes of Thomas Partey and Jorginho. And that isn’t counting transfer targets playing a similar role – Declan Rice, Moises Caicedo, and Yourie Tielemans.

Only 23, it’s probable that Arsenal loan Lokonga again while still keeping him under ownership. Perhaps, with further development, his time sporting north London red will come later.

Other players returning from loan

Portuguese wing-back Nuno Tavares will return from a Marseille loan at the end of Ligue 1 where the 23-year-old has had mixed performances. Marseille sit third in the league with Tavares contributing 6 goals in 29 appearances. Much like his time at Arsenal, his defensive duties are slack, an issue that won’t fly under Arteta’s expectations.

Ivorian winger Nicolas Pepe, 27 , has played his football on loan to Nice this season scoring 6 goals in 19 matches. Pepe was acquired during the Unai Emery regime in 2019 costing 72 million Euros, a club-record signing. His contributions were soon outpaced by academy phenom Bukayo Saka, a club favorite.

With consistent performances from Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Leandro Trossard this year, and plans to sign other wingers (Pedro Neto and Moussa Diaby are among the targets), it seems unlikely that the Ivorian will receive management’s favor. Instead, Pepe could become a source for funding new players at the Emirates.

Making over 100 appearances for the Gunners, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, loaned to relegation-locked Southampton, seems unlikely to rejoin Arteta’s squad upon return. He competed in 22 games for the Hampshire side that, despite best efforts, struggled to collect points in the English top flight in 2022-2023.

Maitland-Niles is unlikely to rejoin the Gunners next year as midfield and fullback positions will likely be supplied with new competitors alongside first team selections for the reds this season. The 25-year-old seems aware of his situation, stating, “It’s time for a fresh start and to find a new home”, according to The Athletic

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The possibilities for the future of red north London is exciting and curious. New talents, growing players, and returning stars could all play their part in a much anticipated 2023-2024 season for the Gunners looking to hoist a Premier League trophy and a positive Champions League return.