Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has urged Dani Ceballos to prove he is worth keeping after the on-loan Real Madrid midfielder was linked with a return to Spain.
Ceballos joined Arsenal in August on a season-long loan, but he has struggled to make an impact and is reportedly keen to leave.
The 23-year-old played in Spain’s most recent internationals but is said to be concerned about his chances of making the national squad for Euro 2020.
Ceballos, who has scored just once in 17 appearances for Arsenal, was sidelined by a hamstring injury in November and is yet to feature since Arteta took charge.
Speaking ahead of Monday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at Bournemouth, Arteta made it clear Ceballos will have to show his quality and desire on a consistent basis to get back in the team.
“I had a conversation with Dani. When I joined the club he wasn’t here. He was in Madrid because he was doing his rehab for over a month with the team that owns him,” Arteta told reporters on Friday.
“I haven’t seen much of him because he only trained with us for a week or 10 days.
It’s very early to assess what I can or cannot do with him. I heard about all those things but I have nothing to comment.
“He needs to get back to fitness and fight for his place like any other player. After that, we will make a selection that is fair with what I see on the pitch.”
Ceballos wasn’t the only Arsenal player linked with a move this week after Barcelona were connected with a potential bid for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to cover for the injured Luis Suarez.
But Arteta rejected those rumours and pointed out the programme notes of the Gabon forward earlier this month which stated his happiness at the club.
“A week ago after a game at home, we were discussing that he said he was so happy, that he didn’t agree with the things being written in the media and has his future here. I’m so happy about that. That’s where I stand at the moment,” he said.
In seven matches, the Gunners have only lost once under Arteta, although they have secured just two wins during that period.
“A lot of things that I wanted to implement, not just with the players but around the club in terms of the culture, I’m seeing very good signs in progress,” Arteta said.
“In general I can see the direction towards what I wanted a month ago.”