Four Arsenal players were recalled from their loan spells in January without being sent out on another, leaving them likely to rejoin the u23s.

Dejan Iliev with Shrewsbury Town (Photo via Iliev on Instagram)
Dejan Iliev with Shrewsbury Town (Photo via Iliev on Instagram)

Arsenal recalled a fair few players from their loan spells in January, but in some cases, this was clearly with the intent of reloaning them.

Zech Medley returned from Gillingham before joining Kilmarnock. Matt Smith swapped Swindon Town for Charlton Athletic. Joseph Olowu joined Wealdstone FC following the expiry of his loan with Cork City in November.

However, four others returned to Arsenal and didn’t subsequently find loan moves. Dejan Iliev (Shrewsbury Town), Tom Smith (Dover Athletic), Tolaji Bola (Rochdale AFC), and Trae Coyle (Gillingham) are the four in question.

In all four cases, they didn’t play particularly regularly on loan. Coyle made the most appearances with 21, scoring four times, but only eight of those were starts. Bola actually played more minutes than Coyle, but from just 12 appearances.

As for the two goalkeepers, they hardly featured at all. Neither even made it to five starts.

It was no surprise to see them back, but it’s a bit disappointing they didn’t find better moves elsewhere.

The u23s already have Arthur Okonkwo, Karl Hein, and James Hillson as goalkeeping options, so Smith and Iliev will both either struggle for games or take minutes away from the other three. Five goalkeepers is simply too many for one position.

Iliev doesn’t really have much chance competing for a first-team spot either. He now has Bernd Leno, Mat Ryan, and Runar Alex Runarsson ahead of him, although admittedly one is suspended and another is injured right now.

In the Europa League, Iliev isn’t even eligible to play. Arsenal could only add three over-21 players to their main squad in January, and they chose Gabriel Martinelli, Mat Ryan, and Martin Odegaard.

Tolaji Bola (Photo via Instagram / TolajiBola)
Tolaji Bola (Photo via Instagram / TolajiBola)

You’d expect Bola and Coyle to return to the u23s as well, rather than the first team. Though, again, the current injury situation with Kieran Tierney at left-back might offer the very slightest of chances to Bola.

As with the goalkeepers, it’s going to be a shame to see the likes of Bola and Coyle playing ahead of Arsenal’s younger talents at u23 level. Bola is 22 now, he really should be playing senior football somewhere.

All they can do now is try and make an impression in the Premier League 2 to secure a transfer or loan in the summer.