Tag Archives: loan

The Ceballos Experiment

It makes economical sense.

Not that being frugal has ever really applied to football transfers, but the increasing frequency of top clubs looking at a loan move instead of a full transfer is probably buoyed by this fact as well as one other.

It enables a club to see if a target is indeed the correct fit for the team. The many variables that can mean the difference between a seamless transition for a player and a failed experiment that could lead to a broken dressing room.

It comes down to much more than if a new signing can deliver the goods on the pitch. If they are a jarring influence in the dressing room, on the training pitch, then it can be almost as disastrous as a lack of performances on the turf.

They may struggle with authority figures, they could even end up simply hating the area of the UK that they live in.

All of these factors can be given the litmus test with a loan, and Dani Ceballos was beginning to look like a real boon for Arsenal.

The Spaniard arrived with quite the fanfare. Ceballos was hot property and not many foresaw the talented playmaker coming to struggling Arsenal. The fans loved it, despite Ceballos’ insistence that he didn’t want to extend his stay at the club beyond the season’s arrangement. He wanted Real Madrid and this trial would enable Ceballos to not only remind Head Coach Zinedine Zidane of his potential – but it could also allow him to force his way into Spain’s Euro reckoning.

What did he need to do the above? He needed games, regular and with a degree of success. If Ceballos could benefit his loan club, then he could look forward to a fruitful future at the club he adores – as well as a busy summer with his national side.

It all started so well too.

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Ceballos was a rare bright spot for Arsenal as we began the season in patchy form. His touch and instant ease with which he interacted with his teammates with the ball was a ray of optimism. So much so that when he was injured against Europa League opponents Vitoria, our fans lamented his absence.

And rightfully so to a degree. After Ceballos’ bright start, we were able to see how his presence could possibly benefit us – but he faded rapidly. Before his injury he had been consigned to the bench, a series of cameo’s was how Ceballos didn’t want to be operating.

We had all expected Ceballos to continue his form, but he tailed off, his adaptation to the Premiership not quite complete.

Upon his return to fitness, he has found his way to the first team blocked once again, as new boss Mikel Arteta has preferred other options other than his compatriot in his selections. We have seen nothing from Ceballos on the pitch, and it is with no surprise that his loan deal was discussed to be terminated early.

The very reason why Ceballos wanted to join Arsenal on loan was also the catalyst why he wanted to leave early. He needed gametime, and he was not getting anything at Arsenal.

It may have left our squad a man lighter than before, but why keep a player that presents no future with us?

We should instead use those minutes that would otherwise have gone to Ceballos, to develop a youngster who can push us forward in seasons to come. It makes us stronger, and Arsenal should come first. It means that if Ceballos continues to ride the bench, it’s positive for another player who represents the future of the club.

This of course isn’t transpiring – Arsenal and arteta want Ceballos to stay and fight for his place, but does he have the hunger to do so?

A loan move that terminates early may fall short of the ultimate aim – to acquire a road-tested player who can hit the ground running.

It does though, enable us to avoid another costly error that leaves us lumbered with a wantaway player who doesn’t deliver the goods. Such are our struggles, we need every player on the books to be facing the right way and playing well.

Loan Deals – Future Is Out Of Their Hands…

Youth players have a plethora of pitfalls to navigate around in order to remain on the path to success.

Established clubs do all they can to prepare them for the obstacles they will face, but it is a necessary rite of passage in order to see who has the minerals to really prove their top-flight credentials.

There are some things that these starlets cannot compensate or prepare for though. Some circumstances are completely out of their hands and their future, or at least a large portion of it, is in the hands of someone else.

They are on the verge of a breakthrough, but with established players ahead of them making it difficult to earn the gametime they need to progress, these kids will be faced with the prospect of joining another club, often one of lower stature, for a season.

This opportunity is the last hurdle before they become fully fledged, ensconced within the club they were schooled in. It is also the highest of hurdles, and it all hinges on the manager at the time.

They choose the club that the youth prospect will be farmed out to. They are responsible for setting the parameters of immediate success or failure. You see, if the club is the wrong fit, then their progress can be set back, or even worse, they could be sold.

Opinion will be based on how they fare. We have had countless players who have been given their big opportunity to show everyone, and the people at Arsenal, what they’re made of. Instead, through a mixture of injuries, an untenable situation with the regime at their loan club, or plain bad luck, have seen them sent back early with their fragile confidence broken, or they stay for the duration of their loan and warm the bench, making sporadic performances they could make at Arsenal.

A prime example of a potential career breaker was the loan move of Serge Gnabry to West Brom. The manager at the time was Tony Pulis, not exactly renowned for being the finest exponent of swift, technical football, we all scratched our heads at the destination for our promising German winger.

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Gnabry had made his debut and seemed to be ready to make the final leap from prodigy to first eleven candidate. Wenger opted instead to send him to the Hawthorns, Perhaps Wenger thought he would test the mettle of Gnabry, to see if he could mix it as well as bewitch opponents? Whatever the musings were behind the decision, it backfired spectacularly, with Gnabry learning pretty much nothing from his move – other than Tony Pulis doesn’t get a rough deal – he really DOES only know one style of play.

You see, managers really do have the future of these kids in the balance. Does the destination club play the right way? Does the kid have something specific he needs to learn? Is the managerial situation stable? Does the manager have a forward thinking style? What is the positional competition like for the youngster?

Also, will our appointment of a Loan Overseer of sorts, help with future loanees?

Emi Martinez last season earned practically no experience in his loan move in La Liga, and it wasted an entire year of the keeper’s career.

The recent loan move for Reiss Nelson in particular, there is a focus here that isn’t usually on a loan deal – with  the huge promise that Nelson possesses. A lot hinges on this season, and Nelson is so far delivering on it – but the season is long.

The destination club – Hoffenheim – is a progressive club, playing a blend of football that adapts to the given opponent. It means Nelson will be schooled as well as get the game time he needs, and our club needs in order to goague his progress and capacity. Julian Nagelsmann is a revered coach and will use him wisely, but there could be tougher times ahead, times that mean the bench or worse, the physio’s table, beckons.

We have the likes of Calum Chambers and Krystian Bielik on loan too, with both players Arsenal future’s very much in the balance, off-set by the potential success or failure of their respective moves to Fulham and Charlton respectively.

These fledgling players can fight tooth and nail, bleed for every minute on the pitch, but if the loan club isn’t the right match, then it won’t matter a jot. Their future is not just in their hands.

Just imagine that. Having the fate of a kid in your hands. Rather them than me.

Suarez Is A Gooner

We had no funds. We were told that signings would be difficult.

So to add a player from Barcelona in this window – and one of real pedigree – is no mean feat.

Our loan signing of Denis Suarez is a bit of a steal really, and some shrewd business by our backroom team. The loan deal until the end of the season means we get a decent window to gauge if Suarez is Arsenal material or not – with an option to buy should he impress. Barca protected their interests too, by persuading Suarez to sign an extension before he departed for London.

And impress he should. Suarez has been sworn in as a replacement for the outbound Aaron Ramsey, and Suarez can fill the void left by the Welshman – although goalscoring is not his strongest suite.

What are Suarez’s strengths though? His technical ability – unsurprising coming from the Nou Camp – is his main asset. A great first touch and a decent pass on him means he can be used in the same positions that Ramsey normally occupies.

It is well documented that the Premier League requires a higher level of physicality than the other top European leagues, and Suarez may find the going tough at first. Fear not though, for suarez is familiar with the rigours of English football after hsi spell at Manchester City back in 2011-13. He didn’t exactly force himself onto first team plans, but his two years with City means he will be more familiar with the language – often a deal breaker with new signings – and it means he may require less acclimatising than others.

Unai Emery has often spoken of Suarez, despite the move not being confirmed – and Suarez has played under Emery at Sevilla for a season, where he played 31 matches for the now Arsenal boss. That indicates that Emery was convinced of Suarez’s qualities, which bodes well for us.

Since that loan spell, Suarez has played for both Villareal and Barca, but in the last season, he has found it a little tough to impose himself on the first eleven, being used primarily as a squad player.

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He will enjoy far more games with us, especially since Emery has hinted that Suarez is due to be used mostly out wide, where we are in dire need of bodies. Iwobi aside, we are sorely lacking men who have white paint on their boots. With Mkhitaryan injured currently, Suarez could find himself in the first team quicker than he would have imagined.

Make no mistake, Suarez has what it takes to make an impact in our side, and physicality aside, we have a man that can damage opponents with his passing and his touch, which is covered in velvet.

At 25, Suarez is approaching his best years, and hopefully they can be with us. With the Europa League becoming of critical importance in our season with our exit in the FA Cup, Suarez is another body we can rely on when the fixtures come thick and fast.

Emery wants him at the club – and that is a rubber stamp of his credentials.

Welcome to Arsenal, Denis Suarez!

Nelson’s Brave Loan Move

A few months ago, I penned a blog looking at the future of starlet Reiss Nelson.

It was on the back of his breakthrough season at Arsenal. He had impressed in pre-season, and his displays for the Under-23’s the campaign prior were filled with rave reviews and tongues wagging about this precocious talent.

He was rewarded with a prominent place amongst the Europa League squad, where he looked every inch a first teamer. While his trickery was dialled down a smidgin, his effectiveness and work rate were just as impressive.

It left Nelson at a crossroads in his fledgling career, and with his contract entering its final year, I surmised his options and where each path could take him.

Enter Unai Emery, and the Spaniard has picked up where Wenger left off, in terms of leaving the door open to our Academy graduates. Jo Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Emile Smith-Rowe  and Nelson have all been included in first-team affairs and while first team opportunities have been hard to come by in our first games this season, the arduous nature of the season hasn’t reared its ugly head yet and that is where these kids can feature.

Nelson has obviously seen enough to know that his immediate future lies with Arsenal, as he has been persuaded to ignore the inevitable approaches, and sign on the dotted line for the foreseeable.

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His new deal will see Nelson ply his trade in the Bundesliga this season, as the winger will play for Hoffenheim for the campaign.

This move is an incredibly brave one for the youngster.

There would have been opportunities to remain in England, at the cutting edge of the game still, and up his minutes on the pitch.

Instead, he has gone to an exciting foreign side, managed by one of the hottest coaching properties in the game.

Julian Nagelsmann is an incredibly young manager, but what he has done for Hoffenheim in a short space of time has placed him on the radar for all the European giants.

Most importantly for Nelson though, is that Nagelsmann has a firm grasp on modern, tactical football. It will enable Nelson to adapt and come back into the Emery fold with more tools in his armoury.

Nelson has gone to Germany where communication for even the simplest things will be difficult. It is the better opportunity for his career though, and a great barometer to gauge where he needs to be for his Arsenal future.

Nagelsmann has already commented on Nelson before he signed, saying “If it all works out, we’ll have a great player with pace who can do a lot with the ball.”

Nelson could well follow in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho, who moved permanently to Dortmund and has since seen his stock rise immeasurably. While Nelson has committed his future to Arsenal, a move to the Bundesliga can pay off handsomely. The tactics and the level are high, and Nelson, if he gets enough starts, could come back a far more polished diamond than we had before.

So we will all keep a close eye on events in Hoffenheim. To watch a player we all know has the skill, but if he can make it at a tender age in a foreign land, then his mental fortitude and hunger will be exactly where it needs to be too.

Minutes into his first outing, Reiss scored and made an instant impact.

Good luck Reiss, we are all rooting for you.

Eddie Nketiah – Stick or Twist?

The dream for every young player is to make their debut for the first team.

To also score the winner in extra time? That’s the equivalent of dreamland Nirvana – but our very own Eddie Nketiah can always claim his debut for Arsenal was the perfect one.

The League Cup encounter versus Norwich was going the same way as our season – South. The Canaries had pretty much played us off the park, our own efforts frustratingly blocked by bodies on the line and our own final third failings.

We were heading for another exit at the hands of lower league opposition.

Step forward Super Eddie Nketiah.

Eddie Living out his dream

With mere minutes remaining, his first touch was a goal. It rescued the tie for us, and Eddie was mobbed by his relieved teammates. The teenager had saved each and every one of them.

It was to get better, as in extra time, Nketiah scored the winner, to send Gooners into delirium and ensure that his debut would be one he would never forget.

It also meant that Eddie would be on the fringes of the first team squad for the rest of the season. This, in turn, meant that when Aidy Boothroyd selected his England Under-21 squad for the Toulon tournament, Eddie was on the radar.

Nketiah played three times in the tournament, and scored twice, to give him an excellent scoring ratio for his country – and also underline that his talent is not just a flash in the pan. Every level he has stepped up to since being released at Under-14 level by Chelsea, the youngster has met the standard required. It takes mental strength and no little degree of pure talent, but the boy from Lewisham has met the mark for every test put in front of him.

This coming season though, represents the unknown for Nketiah, and perhaps a huge decision for him to make.

Another season like his last would not suffice. The boy desperately needs games, he needs to go through a season and make 30 or so appearances, and see whether he can last at a higher level for the duration.

This would signify a loan move, and there would be no end of takers for the striker – although choosing a host club is so important after many of our young charges last season were criminally underplayed whilst on loan.

If he gets a chance, he will score, but he also needs luck with injury and a coach that is open to the mistakes a youngster will make. Managers can be forgiven to a degree for being ruthless when a player is short of form, thanks to the results-driven nature of their position. There needs to be a balance though, so it is with great care that if Eddie does go on loan, we need to pick a club and manager that will help him blossom – rather than see him as just an extra body in the squad.

Alternatively, Unai Emery is not averse to playing kids in his teams and giving them the opportunities they desire. If Eddie did stay and try to force his way into the team this early, then Emery would most likely give him a shot if he is applying himself in training. In terms of a rhythm of games though? that is decidedly doubtful.

The good thing with this young man is that he tasted rejection early in his career, and Arsenal swooped in and gave him another shot. He will have a loyalty to the club, and will want nothing more than to wear the shirt and play games. If it is at the entropy of his fledgling career though, and he has a chance elsewhere?

He could well move on. Just look at Chris Willock and Marcus McGuane at Benfica and Barcelona respectively.

Our pre-season tours are the perfect chance to give Eddie his shot up top. They may be friendlies, but they will give Emery a great chance to gauge his men on the pitch.

Eddie’s career at Arsenal could hinge on his showings in Singapore and the Champions Trophy.

Let’s hope now that Jack has departed the club, we can have another Arsenal youth talent to pin our hopes to.

Joel Campbell – Arsenal’s Forgotten Man

Did you know that Joel Campbell is now our fourth most capped player – ever?

He earned his 72nd cap as an Arsenal player in the 2-0 loss to England in a pre-Cup friendly which made him our 4th highest at the club, level with David Seaman.

Looking at it from a distance, this is quite some achievement. Yes, Costa Rica doesn’t have a plethora of competition for places like other nations, but a fine injury record and a maintenance of form has seen Campbell rack up the appearances for his home nation.

What really puts it in perspective though, is when you consider how little he has played for his club – and the lengths he has had to go to in order to get gametime.

Campbell has been with us for seven years. That’s a mighty long time, and yet his Arsenal appearances amount to just 23 – most of those during 2014-2016.

To get that crucial time on the pitch, Campbell has gone on loan spells to Ligue Un with Lorient, La Liga with Real Betis and the Greek SuperLeague with Olympiacos – in all of those seasons he earned more starts than in his combined and lengthy Arsenal career.

What has the Costa Rican done to be shunned like this? Is it a limitation on talent? Certainly not. He may not be a permanent starter, but in his time in an Arsenal jersey he showed exactly what he has to offer. He has incredible strength, he can adapt across the forward line, playing wide and cutting in, or ploughing a lone furrow up top. He has an assured touch and isn’t terrible in front of goal. Campbell is more than good enough to be an option in the squad.

Joel Campbell, the forgotten Gunner

And yet we will never see him wearing an Arsenal shirt again. After seven years as an Arsenal player in nothing but contract, Campbell will never play on our Emirates turf.

This will be his second World Cup at just 25 years old. He has amassed experience across many corners of Europe and still has potential, but Campbell has worn an Arsenal shirt for the last time.

If he did manage to assuage Unai Emery to grant him a squad place – a place on the bench would be tough enough to acquire.

As a wide forward, he faces competition from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

As a centre forward, Aubameyang, Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are his opponents.

With our attack well stocked, it is likely we have seen the last of Joel Campbell, despite it being unconfirmed as I write. He can consider himself unlucky to not have been given a fairer crack of the whip, but the Costa Rican can hold his head up high when he did play for us.

Chances are that Campbell will join Galatasaray, and a lengthy Arsenal career that never truly threatened to take off, for whatever reason that is, draws its curtains.

Farewell, Jon Toral

We never quite got to know the REAL Jon Toral.

Precisely zero appearances for the first team smacks of a player that never quite made the grade at our club, but there is a tinge of sadness with the Spaniard signing a permanent deal at Hull City.

Toral, still only 22, seemed destined for the biggest stage when he signed with us back in 2014. His showings for the Reserves were impressive, and loan spells soon followed for the youngster to truly test the midfielder and see whether he could convert his bags of potential into that sprinkling of magic that all top players have.

Brentford and Birmingham City were his first ports of call, both season-long loans designed to check his progress. Both times he left the clubs with glowing references. At Birmingham especially, he returned to Arsenal with the Goal of the Season and the Players and Supporters Player of the Year awards safely tucked in his belt.

His showings smacked of a clever player with composure, who could work openings. The Spaniard had been hewn from La Masia stock, and his touch and passing reeked of Catalonia. He looked to be the real deal.

Injuries had hampered the youngster a tad, but crucially he did not take long to get back to speed after a layoff. An injury in a loan spell is usually the death knell to any opportunity, so in cahoots with his talent, he also had a mental resolve that was required too.

The next season though, was when Toral hit a hurdle or two. 

Another loan spell beckoned, and it was a step up from his spells in the Championship. Granada in LaLiga was the destination, and it started so well, but his loan was cut short halfway through the season after only six appearances. 

Keen to keep his place on the progress chart, he chose to spend the second half of last season on loan at Rangers. He managed 15 showings and 3 goals, but he couldn’t quite manage the sparkle he managed in the previous season.

Injuries did play a part, but what was hindering him most is that at Granada and Rangers, he couldn’t hold down a regular spot.

It meant that the jury was still out on Toral back at Arsenal, so this summer, it was either another loan spell, stay at the club and hope his performances for the Reserves would attract Wenger’s attention – or leave.

Hull City and Leonid Slutsky came calling, and we cannot blame Toral for his decision. He is eager to progress and play regularly, and at the KC Stadium he will have that opportunity. Could we have been a little premature on the decision?

It has left many questions regarding Toral, and a feeling that he could well flourish and come back to haunt us in the future. 

A buyback clause would have been ideal – let Toral grow and then bring him back into the fold when he is ready. 

Unfortunately, yet another young player with bags of talent has left the club. None of us will know if Toral would have cut it at Arsenal, but it would have been great to give him that chance. He seemed the archetypal Arsenal player, but when hunger for gametime kicks in, no one can begrudge a youngster the chance to make hay whilst the sun shines. 

Good luck Jon Toral, Gooners everywhere wish for you nothing but the best – aside from when you play us!