Ceballos loan could be perfect for Willock’s transition to the Arsenal first team


Arsenal have finally sealed the long awaited season-long loan deal for Real Madrid’s young midfield sensation, Dani Ceballos. The deal will keep the young Spaniard with Arsenal for the next twelve months. The move had been in the cards for the past couple of weeks, and with all negotiating parties having arrived at a conclusion, the deal was officially announced on Thursday.

While this news has mostly been greeted with satisfaction by most of the fan base, there is, however, a smaller crop who feel that the deal isn’t as smart as it should be. The notion is that the club’s failure to insert a possible buyout clause in the loan deal roughly exemplifies our recurrent inability to exhibit shrewdness in the transfer market and with player contracts in recent times.

Unfortunately, some of these concerns are not entirely out of place. Arsenal have not exactly been the wittiest in her transfer dealings, and only a few top clubs, if any, could actually measure up—or down, depending on how one looks at it — to how badly we’ve handled player contracts in recent times. That said, regardless of the absence of a buyout clause, I’m with the opinion that the move is a smart one. Granted, perhaps a buyout clause would clearly have made it an even more interesting deal as it would have afforded us the added advantage of snapping the midfielder up for a supposedly moderate fee, it still shouldn’t negate the fact we will be adding to the team, at least for a year, the services of a highly rated young player in a position where we just lost an important member of the team in Aaron Ramsey, while not having to considerably tinker with our rather miserly transfer kitty.

My concern, however, is more in view of how the transfer would affect the burgeoning prospect(s) already within our ranks, putting Joe Willock in perspective. There have been a lot of talks about Joe lately, particularly after recent performances with the team during the summer tour in the United States. Emery has also talked-up the possibility of Willock making that step up in the first team but we can’t be too sure of how exactly the Spanish gaffer will make this work.

“…I really, really think that he made one more step last year during the season and he finished it very well with us, playing 12 minutes in the final against Chelsea with a big performance.

We now want him to take another step more in his capacity to be with us, with a big help in our performance and our idea.”
Unai Emery on Willock

Our best guess is a couple of domestic cup run-ins; maybe a few Europa league games every now and then, at least till the competition heats up. But will that do the trick? In fairness it’s basically what he got last season so except he will be given more opportunities in the league as well as get the usual cup games, or if push comes to shove, a proper loan move, the elusive ‘step up’ he may find hard to make. I nonetheless feel Joe’s ready to challenge and Emery will do well to make the right calls regarding his transition as the Arsenal manager would most definitely not want to upset the balance in Willock’s development, which, by the way, has been quite steady so far.

With Xhaka, Toreira, Guendozi and maybe Elneny all seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order for the central midfield role and reports claiming that a clause for regular game time was included for Ceballos’ loan, chances are that Joe will find competitive playing time a bit hard to come by, at least for the next twelve months. I know it’s a bit far-fetched, but in the off-chance that he’s sent on loan, he may get the needed prop for advancing and probably cementing a place in the first team when he returns.

On a more speculative note though, this may have been one of the considerations made by the Arsenal negotiating party for Ceballos’ loan transfer. It’s possible that they may have considered that if Willock’s transition into the first team goes in the right direction in the span of the next twelve months, they could end up saving some real cash and hence a buyout clause may be extraneous. And the same could be said about the situation with Emile Smith Rowe.

With the season just round the corner, it will be interesting to see how Emery masterminds his engine room with the available midfield options. It should be one hell of a feisty battle for places come next season. And for what it’s worth, I hope Joe stays this season and is given a commensurate opportunity with the others to grow. I reckon he’ll prove his worth and obviously add to squad depth in the middle of the park for the season.

Chimezie Azih


  1. Ceballos’ arrival could mean Elneny’s departure. I want to see Willock play as a starter, but he has too many competitors, as you said

    Arsenal need a big squad because of the four competitions, but Emery would have difficulties in the selection if everybody is healthy

    I just hope Chambers would never play as an RB again. I wish Emery would try him in the DM position instead

    1. I suspect Willock would most probably be on the fringes of the team. But I wouldn’t be too surprised if Emery decides to give him a level playing ground with the others. Guendozi was given top level exposure almost at the same age last year. I’m pretty sure Joe will impress if and when he’s given the nod. Emery isn’t exactly shy on the youth front. Time will tell.

  2. I think it will work out fine for young Willock. He can focus on polishing his tools while Ceballos deals with the pressure of starting in our woeful midfield.

    Next year I hope Willock and Guendouzi can play as CM’s alongside Torreria in the DM role.

    Willock and Guendouzi are both gems, and can settle our midfield for years. Also for Zidane to speak highly of Willock says a lot; ZZ definitely knows midfielders.

  3. It’s quite pathetic that we are hoping our youth come good.

    Most Academy players don’t
    The top teams sign top, experienced players and if 1 or 2 Academy players become good enough to play for the first team then that’s a bonus

    But you can’t be a top 4 team by signing average players and hoping our Academy will bail us out.

    1. Mr Innit, be informed that the so called world class players you are speaking of, came out of one clubs academy or the other.

  4. Willock is going to have a break through year. Setting up for next season for him to be considered equal alongside others in the middle.
    This season, he just needs to do what he does when he gets in the pitch. The rest will take care of itself.

  5. Nice article mate, I actually think Willock would actually get game time even in the league. Emery is someone that loves to experiment, he’d definitely try him out on a lot of occasions. I’m just sad burton won’t get gametime, perhaps in LC and UEL. PSYCHED FOR THE NEW SEASON. #COYG

    1. Thanks mate. As for Burton situation, we obviously can’t flood the team with academy players. He’ll get his time in due course

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