Arsenal u21 head coach Mehmet Ali has suggested the plan is to loan Matt Smith and James Olayinka this summer, moves which would have multiple benefits.

James Olayinka (2L) celebrating his goal for the Arsenal u21s (Photo via Arsenal Academy)
James Olayinka (2L) celebrating his goal for the Arsenal u21s (Photo via Arsenal Academy)

With just a few weeks left of the summer transfer window, Arsenal 21-year-olds Matt Smith and James Olayinka are still playing for the Gunners’ youth teams.

The pair have been impressive in the opening Premier League 2 fixtures, even combining for a goal against West Ham. But they both turn 22 on October 5th (they share a birthday), and they really need to be playing senior football.

U21 coach Mehmet Ali has been pleased to have the pair involved in his early fixtures, but he’s hoping they’ll go out on loan soon. Ali started by assessing Matt Smith’s situation.

“[Smith’s] application on and off the pitch on a daily basis is a real positive for all of these young players to see,” Ali said. “We’re hoping he will be potentially going out and furthering his career.

“He’s got experience at this level already, he’s helping some of the younger players. But for his development and his journey, we’re hoping he can go out and go and impress on loan somewhere and see where it takes him.”

The coach then had something similar to say about Olayinka.

“[Olayinka’s] come far because he works hard every single day,” Ali continued. “It’s no coincidence. The work he’s doing every single day, putting in the hours, the training, being fully committed to what he’s doing is why he’s getting the rewards.

“Hopefully, again, he can go out and go and further his career somewhere.”

Matt Smith in training with the Arsenal u21s (Photo via
Matt Smith in training with the Arsenal u21s (Photo via

As it stands, Arsenal are still one player overstocked for the new Premier League season. Mikel Arteta has 26 senior players, but only 25 places available in his senior squad.

Smith and Olayinka leaving would free up two of those spaces, and prevent a situation where one of them ends up stuck at Arsenal unable to be registered for senior matches.

Of course, there are other players seemingly on the way out, from Runar Alex Runarsson to Hector Bellerin.

But in the Europa League – due to differing UEFA rules – Arsenal have 29+ senior players for 25 spots, including Marquinhos, Reuell Walters, and Lino Sousa, who can’t be registered on the u21 list.

So even Runarsson and Bellerin leaving wouldn’t be enough to fit everyone in. Arsenal need to send Smith and Olayinka out on loan, and maybe one more, if they’re planning to make a new signing.

Clearly, the two midfielders leaving on loan would be the best thing for everyone in the coming weeks.