Arthur Melo is a Dani Ceballos-esque loan extension from Arteta – a different player, but a similar situation. Arsenal need depth in midfield, & the Brazilian is a TOP short-term solution. Below, in this in-depth thread, I break down how the player fits in at Arsenal.
Arthur has fantastic technical quality, a low centre of gravity, a nimble turning radius, always shows for the ball, is comfortable receiving under mass pressure, and has measured pass selections. He is comfortable receiving on the half-turn and excels at circulating play.
However, he’s a physical lightweight. Arthur won’t venture from midfield but he will cause Arsenal problems in defensive transition – The Brazilian is very weak mobility wise, has little strength, & struggles aerially, so he’ll be breezed by in transition & dominated in duels.
Physicality is a key factor behind Arteta’s transfer strategy and tactics. It does not matter if a team consists of the best technical players in the league if they can’t win duels in midfield, stop defensive transitions, press high with intensity, recover balls due to pace, etc.
Arthur is the epitome of a player who struggles massively in this regard. However, Jorginho, a regular of Chelsea who are one of the best teams in the world is similar – good on the ball, but a physical liability. So, does this mean that Arthur can succeed at Arsenal? Let’s see.
Role wise, in relation to Arteta’s system, the midfield profiles are either A) the single pivot or B) in the left half-space drifter role. “Role A” requires a physical specimen to deal with defensive transitions, and “Role B” requires a box-to-box, all-action, midfield player.
As you have probably guessed, Arthur does not fit within the single pivot. Where Arteta wants Arthur for is the #8 role. A large factor required within that role is the contribution to build-up play, and this of course where Arthur excels and he will aid Arsenal in this regard.
Furthermore, Arthur will be required to drift high between the lines and combine with Tierney and Martinelli on the left. Arthur can absolutely be an asset in this regard thanks to his on-ball qualities despite his conservative midfield nature.
He is a fantastic circulator.
Off-the ball, from an offensive perspective, he will be required to attack the box from deep. This is not an area of Arthur’s game that he particularly excels at, but it is one that Arteta WILL coach into him to increase Arsenal’s goal threat. Even Xhaka has added this quality.
Alternatively, from a defensive point of view, Arthur will be required to recover alongside Arsenal’s single pivot to help keep the unit compact in defensive transition, block space, press high in the LCM role within the 4-4-2, battle for duels & be intense in general in midfield.
So, Arteta will do everything in his power to make Arthur a side-piece in defensive transition so Arsenal won’t be reliant on him in these moments. Arteta will pick Partey, Elneny, Lokonga and even Xhaka (who typically doesn’t player there) over Arthur as a lone pivot.
So, overall, the #8 role is ideally a player who excels from a physical perspective combined with technical/mental qualities so he can attack the box from deep along with dominating duels and things like this off the ball. Arthur doesn’t, but he excels at most facets Arteta wants.
As such, the signing is a good short-term solution. It’s a loan deal until the end of the season in a position where Arsenal badly need strength in depth. As I said, it is very much so in the Dani Ceballos mould, except improved because Arthur is a more reliable/secure technician.
Think your Mari’s, Ceballos’, Cedric’s, etc. What was the common dominator? They were contingency signings and they were simply signed for squad depth in that moment. Arsenal need more midfielders ASAP – they can’t be patient in the market. It’s a matter of desperation.
It was the same when Arteta first came into the club. The Spaniard’s philosophy centres around technical quality and dominating the game with the ball – how can he possibly expect to build play with Sokratis and Bellerin? He can’t. He needed short-term solutions – Mari & Cedric.
It’s why Arteta extended Ceballos. Arsenal needed an #8 who is good technically despite limitations. Short-term solutions are often required despite the manager knowing that the player ain’t good enough i.e. Davies/Karius/Klavan/Caulker for LFC.
Rebuilds require patience.
It’s one of those deals that people may look back on in years & say it was poor business but when considering the context of the situation it’s clear that it’s not. Arthur excels at all of the on-ball facets Arteta requires & doesn’t have a massive off-ball role ala Partey.
Sure, Arthur’s lack of physical qualities will be problematic for Arsenal and cost them on occasion, but the pro’s massively outweigh the con’s with this deal. The player fills a short-term void whilst excelling at most facets of play Arteta requires – it makes a lot of sense.
To conclude, Arthur’s technical qualities cannot be underestimated. He is world class in possession – he’s good enough for Barca and Juve. So, why didn’t it work out? Was he not disciplined enough, not given a chance, or still developing psychologically? It’s an interesting one.
Okay, Arthur has physical deficiencies, but so did Xavi (a similar profile and origin). I think Arteta has given the player a chance with this loan deal to figure out where the player is at psychologically. How does he deal with the physical pressure of the PL? Is he dedicated?
If Arthur is dedicated and Barca/Juve missed the boat on him, Arteta may have just signed a phenom. I am not joking when I say this – Arthur is elite in possession. The game is effortless to him. He should be a world class player.
If he’s not, ship him back to Juve.