By Matt Fortune

As Arsenal's first team revel in their stunning start to the season, some young Gunners find themselves working at very different clubs with very different aspirations for the campaign.

The Club currently has five players plying their trade elsewhere. In doing so they are gaining valuable experience which is sure to benefit them when they return to Emirates Stadium.

Johan Djourou continues to grow as a central defender at Premier League outfit Birmingham. Matthew Connolly, who has been rewarded for his fine form with a first England Under-21 call-up, is based at Colchester in the Championship. In League One, Jay Simpson is at Millwall and Kerrea Gilbert is at high-flying Southend United. Further afield, one of world football's hottest properties Carlos Vela is causing a stir in La Liga - the Mexican striker is at Osasuna.

For a greater insight on the development of these players we spoke to local journalists and official club reporters who follow each loanee's respective teams on a weekly basis. Read on for their views.


JOHAN DJOUROU, 10 appearances - Colin Tattum, Birmingham Mail

"I think he has settled in very well. Having so many previous Arsenal players helped and then of course with Seb Larsson and Fabrice Muamba here full-time that probably helped. Steve Bruce had said that Johan would be used in midfield, which I believe is his preferred position, although he has only played there once. He has done well, but you can see why he has been loaned out.

"He has a few raw edges and he is still learning the game. It suits Arsenal for him to be gaining more experience but you can see the makings of a quality player. In term of his performances he has been very strong and purposeful. He uses his athleticism to good effect but he does need to learn more about positioning and decision-making.

"He is definitely a very promising prospect. I know the club were delighted to get him and he has been an integral part of the team."


MATTHEW CONNOLLY, 10 appearances - Official Colchester United Website

"He came into the side at the beginning of the season and looked very assured at the back. He seems to have got a grip of playing with the other lads there bearing in mind they were all strangers to him. He was doing a good job and I think was unlucky to have been out of the team through a suspension.

"He came back into the team and continued where he had left off, and he continues to look very assured and comfortable. The fans have taken to him brilliantly and his attitude on the pitch has been excellent. Some players might come down from the Premier League and their attitude may be off but Matt has not been like that at all.

"He really has looked comfortable at the club and in his role. You can see the potential to be a Premier League defender is definitely there."


CARLOS VELA, 8 appearances - Luis Ansorena, El Correo

"He has played in all of the matches except one, starting three times with eight times as a substitute. He has scored one goal, against Betis, in a 3-0 win on October 31. Vela has started two of the last three games, the manager Cuco Ziganda is playing him on the left wing. He was a central striker for Chivas of Guadalajara, Mexico, when he signed for Arsenal. But Osasuna has two highly-rated strikers, Javier Portillo, who did not play enough at Real Madrid because of the 'galacticos' and moved on, and Walter Pandiani, the much-travelled one-touch Uruguayan poacher who played for Birmingham City.

"Vela has a good work-rate for someone very gifted technically. He is considered to be the player with the best ball technique at Osasuna. He is very fast with the ball at his feet, very quick over the first few metres and good in one-on-one situations.

"The club staff and supporters believe Vela will be a great player, he is still very young but shows enormous promise. Being so young he seems unable to carry the team on his shoulders when things are not going very well, but when the team is playing well he stars."


JAY SIMPSON, 8 appearances - Peter Smith, The News Shopper (London)

"He started quite slowly and I think found it difficult to adapt to the way it is in this league. A lot of players though find that coming from Premier League reserve teams - it's all hustle and bustle down here. Since the change in manager he has been playing on the right wing, and I think he looks better out there, away from a big burly centre-back. His first touch is good and you can see that he has a great technique.

"No-one ever questioned him ever being in the starting XI but he needs a break, like Jamie O'Hara, getting a couple of goals and then he can kick on. The thing is that he can be quite frustrating because someone will find him with the ball and he will bring it down brilliantly and then turn his man, but the ball will then get away from him. I don't know if it is that he is still adapting to the style in this league but you can see he is not that far away from really lighting up the league."


KERREA GILBERT, 6 appearances - Chris Phillips, Essex Echo

"When he signed there were real high expectations for him. He played here when he was with Cardiff last season and was excellent. Unfortunately it hasn't worked out and he has only started six games. He started the season as the first choice right-back but against Gillingham in early September he picked up a little groin injury. In the next match Lewis Hunt came in and he has kept his place and Kerrea has struggled. It is strange because of all the signings in the summer he was the one the most was expected of.

"He struggled to impress early on, I think it was a case of adjusting to his new surroundings, but it hasn't worked out. He was originally signed because of injuries in the team but now they are fit and there are three right backs fighting for one position."


Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 21 Nov 2007