Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says the club will make decisions on the futures of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock in the summer.
The duo were sent out on loan during the January transfer window. Maitland-Niles joined struggling West Brom while Willock moved to the north east to join Newcastle United.
The Gunners made sure there was no clause in either player’s deal allowing their loan club an option to buy outright. With the Baggies likely to drop into the Championship, a permanent move for Maitland-Niles would have been unlikely anyway.
And uncertainty over the Magpies’ ownership means Steve Bruce’s hands will probably be tied.
Arteta said: “I expect that all the loans come back and we will make a decision in the summer.”
Willock made 17 appearances for the north Londoners during the first half of the campaign. But only seven of those were in the league and just two were starts.
And Arteta has revealed his thinking behind letting the youngster leave mid season.
“Joe’s situation was very clear to me,” he said. “We spoke in the summer about a possible loan and I said to him that I was not comfortable with that as I wanted to give him minutes to play different competitions.
“He has played 17 or 18 games in this period which is a lot. He has played to a big level, but now we have less competitions and I thought that he would have less time and that probably the best thing to do would be to give him 14, 15, 16 games in the Premier League.
“To have 30-32 games in one season for his age and with what he has done in the past few years would be a really positive thing.”
Arteta had to let Maitland-Niles go
At 23, Maitland-Niles is two years Willock’s senior. He has already been capped five times by England and has ambitions to play in the delayed Euro 2020.
He made five starts among 11 league outings this term and played 21 times in all competitions. But it was not enough and Arteta felt it was wrong to shackle a player with big ambitions.
“Ainsley is a different phase of his development [to Willock] and is an England international,” he added. “He has played more games and he wanted to start games and he wanted that guarantee and, in my position, it was really different to do that.
“When a player’s main will is not financial and it is to just to play soccer, then it is really difficult to stand in his way when you don’t feel that he will start many games.”
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