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Arsenal u23’s youngster Ben Sheaf has joined League two side Stevenage on Loan for the remainder of the season. He will be joining a side that are 15th in League Two, nine points off relegation and 12 off the play-off spots, so he will have plenty to play for.
Sheaf is a very highly rated player who is fairly versatile as he is able to take up positions in both Defence and Midfield. He has frequently been deployed as a centre back for the u23 side so it will be interesting to see how Stevenage will use the Englishman. I recall when he made his first senior appearance for Arsenal when he came on as late sub in a Europa league fixture vs Red Star Belgrade, he played as a central midfielder and did well. Since this appearance he has only appeared once and this was in the Carabao Cup game vs West Ham – another brief cameo appearance from the bench.
This loan move will surely present Sheaf with his first real opportunity for first team experience in a quite competitive league, something which having only played twice for Arsenal he has not been able to get. The main reason being is that there is a lot of competition for places which is why I believe a few more youngsters should follow in Sheaf’s footsteps and seek a loan move away from the club. Players like Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock who have all appeared this season more than Sheaf should in my opinion leave on loan for the rest of the season. The reason being is that the games these youngsters played in were Europa League group stage games and Carabao cup games earlier in the competition. I highly doubt any of them will feature much in the knockout stages of the Europa League and same with the Carabao Cup. Surely none of them will feature in the final vs Manchester City.
I think we as a club should maybe look at how Chelsea develop their youngsters. Chelsea currently have about 35 players out on loan. Majority of these are under 21 players who are out there gaining vital first team experience. An example of this is when Chelsea loaned out Nathan Ake last season to Bournemouth. He was out there playing brilliantly week in week out with the Cherries for half the season before Chelsea decided to bring him back. For the rest of the season the Dutchman didn’t feature much at all, which led to him moving permanently in the summer to Eddie Howe’s side for a fee believed to be around £20 million
To be honest with you I disagreed at the time with Chelsea’s decision to sell Ake, however they did make £20m for a player who they deemed not good enough for the first team as oppose to letting him maybe run down his contract before eventually leaving on a free. Therefore I believe Arsenal should use this sort of approach with young players. Send them out on loan and see how they do. If they are not good enough sell them as there will always be a team who will want them. If they are good enough then they will surely benefit the team in the future.