Arsenal have finally made their second and third signings of the summer transfer window. On Thursday, Real Madrid midfielder, Dani Ceballos, was unveiled as the Gunners’ new number eight for the 2019/20 season. In conjunction with the Ceballos announcement, Arsenal also presented William Saliba from Ligue 1, however the Frenchman will return to Saint-Etienne on loan until the summer of 2020. Both signings address glaring concerns for Arsenal, but the ramifications in the short and long term are quite different.
The Gunners desperately needed to make a move that would temporarily fill the gap left by Aaron Ramsey, who joined Juventus as a free agent this summer. Ceballos is a gifted and talented central midfielder who has been compared to the likes both Ramsey and Santi Cazorla. The Real Madrid midfielder made 36 appearances across all competitions for the club last season, but felt the need to go elsewhere for the upcoming season in the hope of getting more consistent game time.
Arsenal do not have the option to buy Ceballos following his loan spell in North London, and the 22 year-old Spaniard has expressed a desire to return and fight for his place in the Real Madrid starting eleven. In essence, the signing of Ceballos can be viewed as a stop gap for the time being, and should he prove successful with Arsenal, the Gunners may be tempted to make a move for him in the summer when more funds should be available.
Arsenal have not had the best track record with recent loan signings during the past few years. Some notable players that failed to make an impact while on loan with the club include Kim Kallstrom, Denis Suarez, and Emiliano Viviano. One thing to note, however, is that both Kallstrom and Suarez arrived in the January window as the Premier League season was in full swing. On top of that both were carrying injuries that plagued their time with Arsenal. Ceballos should have no such trouble as there is enough time to integrate him with the squad and his quality is backed by Real Madrid’s belief that he can win a spot in the first team upon return at the end of the season, which was not the case for Denis Suarez with Barcelona.
William Saliba, on the other hand, is seen as a signing for the future, though upon his arrival with the team next summer, he should look to slot into one of the starting center-back positions. Saliba is only 18 years-old and made a total of 19 appearances across all competitions last season with Ligue 1 side, Saint-Etienne. Saliba stated his wish to spend another season back in Ligue 1 in his first interview with Arsenal’s media,
“Well, it was important first of all because I wanted to prove myself another year at Saint-Etienne before I come to try and establish myself at Arsenal.”
Although Saliba will not be able to assist Arsenal in a push for Champions League qualification, the time spent away from the pressure and rigors of English football could be vital to his development on a fundamental level. His potential is considered to be quite high as the reported fee of £27 million price tag and five year contract should suggest.
Arsenal must still look towards a solution at center-back for the season. The club have not improved the position as of yet and in fact face some uncertainty with the current players on offer. Rob Holding is on his way back from injury and could take time for him to get back to match fitness and overcome any lingering issues. Laurent Koscielny has an ongoing contract dispute with the club and his future remains unclear. Shkodran Mustafi has consistently been labeled as Arsenal’s weakest veteran center-back having never lived up to his potential after signing for the club in 2017 from Valencia.
The club may be forced to look towards available free agents for this season such as former Gunner, Thomas Vermalen, and former Chelsea player, Gary Cahill, for support until the Saliba’s arrival. Celtic left-back, Kieran Tierney, continues to be linked with the club but no reliable progress has been made.
Arsenal have no doubt made a statement today with their two signings. Raul Sanllehi, Arsenal’s head of football, Edu, Arsenal’s new technical director, and Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal’s managing director, have thoroughly made their intentions known as they look to build a strong foundation for the future. While much of the excitement from the supporters may be due to the fact that Arsenal actually made signings, no one can question that each player can make an important impact during their time with the club. Arsenal are still looking at other outfield positions, but any potential movements will need to hasten with the transfer deadline fast approaching.