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Should Arsenal keep or sell their loaned players this summer?

Sports Mole assesses whether Arsenal should keep or sell their senior players who were loaned out for the 2021-22 season.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has spent the last two-and-a-half years moulding the squad into his own vision, and alongside technical director Edu, the Gunners boss ought to strap in for a busy summer.

Pursuing big-name targets is one matter, but the powers-that-be must also decide on the fate of those senior players who were sent out on loan elsewhere, with no fewer than six members facing uncertain futures after temporary spells away.

William Saliba has already confirmed his desire to stay, Matteo Guendouzi will remain at Marseille permanently, but Arteta has some big calls to make after keeping an eye on his loan stars throughout the season.

Here, Sports Mole assesses whether Arsenal should keep or sell their other senior players who were loaned out for the 2021-22 season.

Lucas Torreira

Lucas Torreira in action for Fiorentina in November 2021© Reuters

Somewhat disappointingly for both player and fans, Lucas Torreira's Arsenal career has not lived up to expectation so far, and personal tragedy has not helped the Uruguay international's career path either.

The 26-year-old immediately became a fan favourite at Arsenal, but with Arteta previously persisting with the 3-4-3 formation during the lockdown era, there was no space for Torreira in the side alongside Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka.

The less said about Torreira's temporary stint at Atletico Madrid the better, but he reignited his career on loan at Fiorentina - helping them qualify for Europe with five Serie A goals - and he is now confirmed not to be joining La Viola on a permanent basis.

Torreira made his feelings towards unnamed people clear as Fiorentina refused to fork out a seemingly affordable £12.5m buyout option in his loan deal, which surprised many given their recent Dusan Vlahovic windfall.

Torreira is still relatively young, has bags of potential and would be an incredibly useful option for a packed 2022-23 season. The need for depth with the Europa League - a competition which the Uruguay international has plenty of experience in - is not up for debate.

Whether the midfielder wants to remain in North London is another question entirely, and his contract only has 12 months left to run, but with there being a greater need for midfield reinforcements in Arsenal's 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, there is no reason why Arteta should not let him try to reignite his Arsenal career if the player is willing.

Verdict: Keep

Hector Bellerin

Hector Bellerin warms up for Arsenal on March 6, 2021© Reuters

In an almost identical situation, Arsenal are apparently refusing to budge on their asking price for Hector Bellerin, who is also out of contract next summer and has only seen his North London standing go downhill in the past year or so.

Bellerin won the Copa del Rey with Real Betis last term and helped them secure a spot in the Europa League as Manuel Pellegrini's first-choice right-back, which seemingly points towards a stay in Spain.

Arsenal are understood to be asking for a reasonable £8.5m for the 27-year-old, who would expect to sit above Cedric Soares in the pecking order, but Takehiro Tomiyasu will always be Arteta's first choice if he is fit enough.

Furthermore, there have been calls for teenage starlet Brooke Norton-Cuffy to be given the chance to prove himself in pre-season, and Bellerin's standing with Arsenal fans - despite his loyalty to the club - is not exactly perfect.

Injuries have not been kind to the Spaniard, but he has produced a plethora of errors and comical foul throws over the past couple of years - five in the 2020-21 season before December alone - which is unacceptable for a professional footballer.

From the player's point of view, Bellerin has allegedly made it clear that he is willing to sacrifice his remaining salary and has no intention of continuing at Arsenal, who should therefore try to garner a fee for him before losing another high-profile player on a free transfer.

Verdict: Sell

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Roma's Ainsley Maitland-Niles reacts on January 9, 2022© Reuters

One of the Hale End graduates who has not made as big a name for himself as Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, Ainsley Maitland-Niles's future has been up in the air for some time after last summer's memorable transfer saga.

A social media come-and-get-me plea followed Everton's blocked attempts to sign the versatile 24-year-old, whose promises of greater game time during clear-the-air talks with Arteta did not exactly materialise.

Maitland-Niles produced a man-of-the-match performance against Watford in November before he was strangely demoted back to the bench a couple of weeks later, and he only made 12 appearances during his loan spell at Roma without a goal or assist.

Like Bellerin and Torreira, Maitland-Niles's contract is also up in the summer of 2023, and Nottingham Forest have recently been credited with an interest in the Englishman as they prepare to lose Middlesbrough loanee Djed Spence.

Maitland-Niles's versatility will always come in handy when players are out injured or away at the Africa Cup of Nations, but the player will surely be reluctant to pen fresh terms unless he is guaranteed a prominent first-team role.

Arteta should give Maitland-Niles the chance to prove himself over the summer, but a late sale could be on the cards if he fails to convince.

Verdict: Assess in pre-season

Pablo Mari

Pablo Mari in action for Arsenal in April 2021© Reuters

Not one Arsenal supporter needs reminding of how Pablo Mari was bullied by Romelu Lukaku during Arsenal's loss to Chelsea back in August, which came after the former Manchester City man had seemingly become a reliable name for the Gunners in 2020-21.

The 6ft 4in centre-back was never going to become a world-beater at Arsenal, but he slotted into Udinese's backline straight away in January, starting 15 Serie A games and scoring two goals in the process.

Mari himself has announced his desire to remain at Udinese for 2022-23, although the Zebrette's sporting director Pierpaolo Marino has claimed that negotiating with the Gunners for his exit is far from straightforward.

The North London club supposedly want €15m (£12.9m) to sanction Mari's exit, with the 28-year-old under contract for another two years, and terminating another fringe player's deal is simply not an option for the Gunners anymore.

While Mari would be expected to earn some minutes here and there in the cup competitions, he will almost certainly fall behind Saliba, Rob Holding, Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes in the defensive ranks.

With Tomiyasu also capable of deputising in the middle and another new centre-back in Lisandro Martinez potentially arriving, Mari should be allowed to advance his career away from the Emirates.

Verdict: Sell

Reiss Nelson

Arsenal winger Reiss Nelson in September 2019.© Reuters

It can be argued that Bukayo Saka has achieved what many Arsenal fans expected Reiss Nelson to achieve, as despite brief stints in the first team and flashes of quality, his senior Gunners career has not quite kicked off.

A previous loan spell at Hoffenheim proved to be highly beneficial for the 22-year-old, who did not establish himself as a regular starter for Feyenoord last term, but his contributions were noteworthy.

Nelson made 32 appearances for the Dutch side in all competitions and came up with four goals and seven assists in the process, and he started all eight of Feyenoord's knockout matches up to and including the final of the Europa Conference League, which ultimately ended in heartbreak against Roma.

In a recurring theme, Nelson also has just 12 months left to run on his Emirates contract and has allegedly attracted the attention of Premier League clubs, although no specific destinations have been mentioned.

Competition in Arteta's attacking ranks is rife as it is, but the potential departure of Nicolas Pepe would open up a spot for Nelson to demonstrate his growth and harness his recent continental experience for the Europa League.

A move for Leeds United's Raphinha is seemingly a bit far-fetched, and Nelson has all the tools to prove that he could be a valuable asset for Arsenal's quest for success in Europe.

Verdict: Keep

Runar Alex Runarsson

Arsenal goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson pictured in December 2020© Reuters

Replacing Emiliano Martinez with £1.8m man Runar Alex Runarsson would not prove to be a shrewd piece of business from Arsenal chiefs, with the Iceland international simply thrust into the limelight when he was not ready.

Runarsson only made six appearances for Arsenal in 2020-21 - four in the Europa League group stage, one as a late substitute against Wolverhampton Wanderers following Bernd Leno's sending off and one in which he shipped four to Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

A loan spell at OH Leuven in the Juliper Pro League did not exactly provide the 6ft 1in Runarsson with the platform to springboard his career, as he kept just two clean sheets in 17 league outings, but the Belgian side do possess the option to make his deal permanent.

Whether they trigger that clause remains to be seen, but with Aaron Ramsdale, Matt Turner, Karl Hein and Arthur Okonkwo all on the books at Arsenal, Runarsson's opportunities for minutes are slim to none.

Arteta and Edu simply have to chalk this one off as a forgettable bit of business, try to recoup a small fee for the 27-year-old in the coming weeks and move on.

Verdict: Sell

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Hector Bellerin warms up for Arsenal on March 6, 2021
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