Dani Ceballos might not be the answer, but he has shown how important it is that Arsenal sign a progressive passer in midfield in the summer.
Arsenal have struggled this season transitioning the ball from defence into attack. It results in too many sideways passes in both defence and midfield. A lot of possession but not much progression up the pitch.
We have lacked a central midfielder whose 1st thought is to move the ball forward, and the net result of this is less chances created.
Against Newcastle, we saw how playing a forward thinking central midfielder can transform us.
Dani Ceballos come in for Lucas Torreira.
It slightly weakened us defensively in the middle of the park, but we ended up winning 4-0 – our biggest Premier League win of the season.
During that victory, no player played more forward passes than Ceballos – 69. He went off after 82 minutes.
Ceballos also played more forward passes against Newcastle than any player in other game under Arteta – and more than any Arsenal player this year.
With Ceballos leading the way, it meant we were getting the ball forward to our forwards more. And in more advanced positions; something that we have missed for much of the season.
With Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, we are fairly well set for defensivly minded midfielders in the squad. This summer, instead of looking a defensive midfielders, we should look at someone who plays a little more progressive.
We need a midfielder who can do better at linking the defence to the rather someone who can break up play.
Someone who can take the ball off the defence, then follow his own passes through the midfield and into attack.
Take the ball off the defence, pass it forward. Receive it again at the half way line, pass it forward. Receive it once more on the edge of the box. Transitioning from defence to attack in 5 or 6 passes.
Think Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere or even Mikel Arteta himself.
Back in the late 00s / early 10s, that kind of central midfielder defined Arsenal. We perhaps had too many of them, and not enough midfielders who would do the donkey work, the break up play.
We had the likes of Matthieu Flamini and Francis Coquelin, but these were never really good enough.
Arsenal now have an abundance of “work horses” but other than Ceballos, we do not have anyone in midfield who can transition the ball from defence into attack.
Transitioning the ball from defence into attack is not just done with passing. It could also be done through a powerful runner, like Patrick Vieira or Yaya Toure.
Against West Ham, Dani Ceballos was not only impressive going forward, but also showed a defensive awareness to his game that we had not seen before.
As he returns to full fitness, maybe he is actually the progressive, forward thinking transitional midfielder we need. Perhaps we should be looking towards making his deal permanent.
With Torreira, Xhaka and Guendouzi in the squad, we have enough grit. This summer we need to add a bit more subtlety, whether that is Ceballos or someone else.
Football is so much about balance, and when Ceballos does not play, the ball does not get forward quick enough.
Hopefully with Arteta and Edu running the show, they recognise that the player we are missing is themselves.