A Blade, a Terrier and a Cumbrian – Arsenal’s Football League loanees #1

Arsenal – just a training academy, according to Patrice Evra. If anything, though, the most important learning curve of all for Gunners youngsters is their grounding out on loan in the Football League. Ian Rands, Andrew Gibney and John Byrne take a look at three of Arsenal’s young prospects currently on temporary Football League duty.

Kyle Bartley (Sheffield United)
Ian Rands

Kyle Bartley is now in his second spell on loan at Sheffield United. To date, he has made 25 starts and 4 substitute appearances. Yet, despite this experience, it is hard to make a fair assessment of his abilities and impact so far.

Bartley arrived in the latter stages of last season, as Arsenal reserve team captain, with one Champions League appearance to his name. Last season, United started with a small but expensive first team squad which was rapidly decimated by injuries.

The fact that Bartley was one of 14 loan players to wear a Blades shirt last season and the fact that he played as part of five different back four combinations in ten starts did little to help the 19-year-old’s cause.

Neither has the further chopping and changing this season, nor the fact that he has played under three managers at Bramall Lane, with a fourth and possibly fifth more than likely to follow.

Where Bartley has looked best is as the more athletic partner alongside captain Chris Morgan, although those opportunities have been few and far between.

With Morgan now injured and out for the remainder of this season, it is a pairing with fellow loanee Nyron Nosworthy that needs to develop in order to help secure the Blades’ safety.

Given that most fans are not sure Nyron knows what he is going to do sometimes, this cannot be easy for Kyle.

Kyle has made mistakes. It could be argued that both goals conceded in the home defeat to Ipswich were due to his indecision and a failure to impose himself on the opposition. His pace and strength often help him recover from problems that are initially created by his own positional failings.

However, it is easy to forget he was only 18 when he first joined United and is still learning his trade. This probably plays a part in him not receiving the same level of criticism that other players receive.

In the absence of a potent strike force at Bramall Lane, Bartley’s early experience as a striker at Bolton Wanderers has led to him being thrown forward when the Blades are chasing goals late in a game. Although this is yet to bear fruit he is willing to put himself about, which is a facet always appreciated by Blades fans.

The next six months of Kyle’s career will be a good period in which to judge him. With the club having little room to manoeuvre in the transfer market, he will have a pivotal role to play in the remainder of United’s season. It could be a make or break period for
both club and player.

Benik Afobe (Huddersfield Town)
Andrew Gibney

Having only signed on loan at the start November, Benik Afobe has already become well-liked in his short time with Huddersfield Town. Afobe has only made one start in the league but has featured in both the Football League Trophy and the FA Cup. With three goals to his name, he is certainly one for the future.

A dazzling turn of pace with a strong physique, Afobe looks hungry for football. From his performances, he seems to have all the ability needed to one day deserve a spot in the Arsenal first team.

“Benny” will stay with The Terriers until January at the earliest – although Clark has been told not to overuse the 17-year-old.

There will be plenty of chances for Benik to continue his apprenticeship, competing with Joe Garner, Jordan Rhodes and Alan Lee for a place upfront, and the Terriers still in the hunt for three trophies.

Clark’s options up front are superb for League One and Afobe will benefit from the competition for places as well as learning from established Football League strikers.

Thomas Cruise (Carlisle United)
John Byrne

Due to a season-ending injury to Carlisle’s first choice left-back Sean McDaid, Thomas Cruise has been thrown in at the deep end a little, struggling to find his feet at first. But Cruise is adapting and looking stronger by the game as the defence begin to settle again.

Cruise still looks a little off the pace, even at this level, but has a lovely left foot, is very capable of delivering an attackable cross and is better going forward than when facing opposition players with the ball.

Despite improving with Carlisle United, Cruise will be nowhere near threatening the place of Kieran Gibbs or Gael Clichy at Arsenal. The loan has been good for all parties, and it was certainly a wise move to bring him in.

Many thanks to Ian, Andrew and John for these contributions. If you would like to write a similar piece about any more of Arsenal’s youngsters currently out on loan in the Football League, please drop me an email on 72blog@gmail.com. Once we’ve covered Arsenal, we’ll move on to Tottenham…

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.


  1. blazingooner
    December 16, 2010

    Excellent article, thanks for the update… Hope to hear about the rest of our loanees too. Keep up the good work!

    • theseventytwo
      December 16, 2010

      You’re very welcome. I believe Arsenal have 11 loanees in the Football League so hopefully we can cover all of them – will need fans from Oldham (Cedric Evina), Norwich (Henri Lansbury) and Hull (Vito Mannone) to contribute, among others.


  2. Michael Brown
    December 16, 2010

    How’s Ramsey doing at forest? Arsenal will need him ready next season if Fabregas (AKA Jesus) parts company. Also it would be interesting if anyone has any comments regarding Chesney, Arsenal’s no.1 keeper. All i’ve heard has been praise for his loan spell at Brentford but what are his major faults. All recent Arsenal goalkeepers have had faults and i don’t want to get carried away by his Schmeical like performance at Old Trafford!

    • theseventytwo
      December 16, 2010

      I must admit I didn’t see any of Wojczczchzhchzesnnny’s performances at Brentford but he got widespread acclaim from all quarters. A Brentford fan might pop along and answer that for you.

      Forest have only played one game since Ramsey’s arrival because of the weather – that was a game at Leicester in which he came on as sub after an hour. I wrote very briefly about that here:


      He needs games, so Forest will need to extend the loan in order for that to happen although a busy Christmas period, if the games go ahead, could be all Wenger needs to see to have him back in contention. His loan currently runs out in the first week of January.


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