Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Loan watch: Balogun, Patino, Maitland-Niles

Arsenal will be travelling to the Netherlands later today, and Mikel Arteta will hold a pre-game press conference before tomorrow’s encounter with PSV. We’ll have all the bits and pieces on Arseblog News later, and we’ll preview the game properly on the blog tomorrow.

For today, a quick look at some of the players out on loan this season, starting with Folarin Balogun who is doing very well at Reims. Considering the side he’s playing for are sitting in 14th, and aren’t exactly the greatest chance creators in the league, to have scored 7 goals and made 1 assist in 12 games is very good going for a player in just his second season as a ‘senior’ professional. He’s scored more than Lionel Messi … so far … and a couple of weeks ago Reims out-shot PSG 24 to 11 in a 0-0 draw, but when you’re playing in a mid-table team, you have to be efficient and Balogun is doing that.

Speaking to the BBC this week, he said:

“Before I came here, I had a lot of advice telling me that this would be a good league for me to develop. Now that I am here, I’m seeing the benefits of this league and I’m happy that I can help the team.”

It’s a case of so far, so good for the 21 year old. You want them to play when they go out, and you want them to deliver for the side they’re playing for. Arsenal have sent countless young strikers out on loan down the years, and I think you could count the genuine success stories on one hand. There’s still a long way to go between now and May, but if he keeps this up he’ll return to Arsenal ready to start knocking on the door in a serious way.

Elsewhere, Charlie Patino is doing well in the Championship with Blackpool. Having started brightly he picked up an injury, but has recovered well and played 90 minutes in the last 6 games (and 89 minutes in the one before that). He also grabbed a goal in their 4-2 win over arch-rivals Preston North End, and the way the Blackpool fans sing about him tells you plenty about how he’s viewed there.

He said afterwards:

“It’s my first derby in professional football. I played in the Under-21s for Arsenal against Tottenham on many occasions, but it wasn’t really for three points, it was more development phase.

“Coming here and playing in a Lancashire derby is an amazing feeling. It’s always nice getting the three points, that’s the main thing, but to contribute with a goal and an assist and do it in front of the home crowd at Bloomfield Road was amazing.”

Charlie just turned 19 last week, and when we saw him for Arsenal last season you could see that there was obvious talent, but physically he had some growing up to do. A year spent tearing it up at U23 might have caught the eye, but there’s no way it would have been as beneficial as playing against big, strong men every week. The Championship is tough but so too is the Premier League, as we saw on Sunday when Southampton’s WWE affiliated defenders showcased their talents.

Blackpool are currently 18th in the 24 team league, and it’s still tight enough that a few successive wins could propel them up the table, but one or two poor results would mean a real scrap when it comes to the second half of the season. Either way, he’s playing football in an environment where every game matters, every tackle is important, where people’s livelihoods are on the line and that’s so far removed from youth level it’s chalk and cheese. This is where the real development happens, so like Balogun, let’s hope he can keep it up.

Finally, he couldn’t play against us on Sunday because the rules don’t allow it, but Ainsley Maitland-Niles time at Southampton is not going particularly well. He has made just 4 appearances, starting only twice, for a total of 246 minutes. For a guy who is now 25, he has reached a kind of plateau and he now needs to give very careful consideration to what comes next.

He went to Serie A on loan last season, and it wasn’t great. He’s not getting minutes in the Premier League, even for a side which has been struggling this season. Last week he spoke to the official Southampton website and suggested it was down to the fact manager Ralph Hassenhuttl needing him to get more up to speed with his methods, saying:

“It is just about what position he plays me in and the dynamics of the team at the time. There are different roles I can play in the team and he just wants me to learn them fully, and I’ve been doing that recently. And he is showing more trust in me by putting me on the pitch.”

But Ainsley Maitland-Niles isn’t some ingenue, he’s a guy with close to 200 senior appearances, including an England cap. Southampton don’t do anything that is so wildly different that a player who has already demonstrated genuine versatility at Arsenal needs months and months to pick up. You never know in football, an opportunity might come his way which he grabs with both hands, and I hope that’s the case, but right now it’s not hard to be a bit worried about the way things are going for him.

Ok, let’s leave it there for this morning. Have a good one.

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