Newcastle United's hopes of making Joe Willock's loan move from Arsenal a permanent one look took a blow after Mikel Arteta said the midfielder is part of his plans for next season.
Willock has been a revelation since moving to Tyneside in the January transfer window and has scored six goals in his last six matches, including against 'Big Six' teams Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester City. The 21-year-old became the youngest Premier League player to notch in six consecutive games.
After bagging the winner in Wednesday's 1-0 win over Sheffield United, Willock was hopeful "there's more to continue in the future", but Arteta seems to have close the door on that prospect.
Asked whether the 21-year-old will still be an Arsenal player next season, Arteta said: "For sure because he's got a contract and he's going to be here. That's for sure.
"I'm really happy things have gone so well for him because of the potential Joe had. I think it was great for him to go away and have a different experience.
"He has grabbed that opportunity in a really positive and remarkable way. He will be back with us, we will have those conversations with him and plan the next few years for him.
“He got the responsibility and the test of going to Newcastle to help them get where they want to.
“I spoke with the coaching staff there and they are extremely happy because he was a key part of contributing to get the objectives that they had. That's a real positive for him.”
Newcastle fans were back in St James' Park for the first time since last February for the win over rock-bottom Sheffield United and made clear their appreciation for Willock, singing the player's name throughout the game.
Newcastle 1 Sheffield United 0: player ratings
Afterwards, Willock had said he was uwhere his future lies. "I need to have a conversation and see what the best move for me is," he said. "I have made friends for life and made a really big connection with the fans. It is one of my options and I am going to consider it."
Speaking at a press conference before their final game of the season at Fulham on Sunday, Newcastle manager Steve Bruce said he still has hopes of securing Willock's services for a longer spell.
"We always said that it was a double-edged sword, and we have to respect that he is Arsenal's player," he said.
"We'll see over the summer whether we can test their resolve, but as I said from day one, I'd like to thank Mikel and Steve Round and the football side of it because they were instrumental in getting me him and letting us borrow him for a few months.
"It's been great. He's been great for us, he's been great for Newcastle. He's done well and propelled himself into – when I see what he's done in the last few weeks and the names who have scored six in six, it's quite remarkable, so well done to Joe.
"Let's see. As I've said many, many times now, I've got total respect. Let's not disrespect Arsenal, he is their player."