With the season over and clubs strengthening their respective sides in preparation for next term, Jon Toral is a player with plenty of questions to be answered in the coming months.
The 22-year-old midfielder will probably be thinking that his future at Arsenal is a short one, given lack of luck in recent seasons, but while he’s still a registered Gunner there’s still hope.
Despite an accolade sweep at Championship side Birmingham City during the 2015/16 season, the Spaniard was surprisingly loaned out shortly after the window had opened and didn’t get an chance to shine for Arsenal in pre-season.
There’s the ongoing question of where and how the Gunners can fit him into the senior squad with competition for places so high.
It’s highly unlikely that, fitness permitting, Mesut Özil would be usurped as the club’s creator-in-chief. From a defensive perspective, it might not make sense to play Toral alongside Xhaka unless there is a more defensive-minded midfielder alongside the duo, as they are pass-masters with individual skill in their own right.
At his age, it’s important to be playing regularly and even the most hopeful optimist would agree his chances of regular minutes at the Emirates next season are slim, if at all existant.
Despite this though, it’s important for Toral to not lose hope.
He should take some inspiration from Francis Coquelin’s emergence within the side and aim to continue impressing, as that’s the only way he’ll be granted an extended opportunity to showcase his quality in the first-team.
Having been out on-loan at Brentford, Birmingham, Granada and Rangers with mixed success overall, it’s fair to say he has nonetheless benefited from his experiences.
Injuries were a lingering worry, but he seems to be over those now, the genetic defect in both knees surgically corrected.
Gedion Zelalem was in a similar position to Toral with Rangers, and questions over suitability and physicality have appeared once again.
It’s harsh to judge Toral on his defensive qualities because that’s not where he excels. Rangers dropped him deep into a position he had never played before while fans wondered why he was struggling.
Although there is always room for improvement, it’s important that wherever he plays next season, he’s given more of an opportunity to showcase his playmaking ability instead of his ability to adapt to a new position.
He signed a new contract extension with Arsenal prior to his Rangers move in January and it’s encouraging to know that he still eyes a senior breakthrough with the Gunners. He potentially has a future at the club, though how long that will last is still unclear.
At the time Toral said, “Playing well for Rangers can help me prove to Arsène Wenger that I am ready for the first team. I believe I can get my career back on track at Rangers because ultimately I want to go back to Arsenal and play for the first team there. I’ve had two good loan experiences and one bad one.”
It’s fair to say that his experience at Rangers was a fairly decent one, and he would’ve learned a lot from his six months there. For him to have a good chance of a senior breakthrough, it’s imperative that he impresses during the upcoming pre-season tour.
There are a handful of midfielders who could be on the move this summer, from the aforementioned Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and also Jack Wilshere. If that’s the case, he needs to prepare himself to deal with the extra pressure that would naturally come with the step-up.