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Opinion: Arsenal need to give 'unreal' young centre-back a chance in pre-season, he's 'top class'

As Arsenal prepare to bring the curtain down on a campaign that promised so much and delivered pretty much nothing, Mikel Arteta has a lot to ponder in the close season.

There’s likely to be a fair bit of movement in the Gunners back line, with David Luiz on his way and a few others, like Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac, heavily linked with moves away.

Obviously William Saliba is set to come back from his loan spell at Nice, and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in pre-season and what Arteta has in store for him.

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Saliba isn’t the only on-loan player who has been making waves at his current club though.

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Daniel Ballard has become a fan favourite at Blackpool and has helped them to within 90 minutes of potential promotion to the Championship.

The 21-year-old joined the Arsenal academy aged eight and has impressed while progressing through the ranks.

A long-term knee injury, which required surgery, sadly saw him miss out on most of the 2019-20 season.

However, Ballard returned to fitness in the summer and was on his way to Blackpool in October, linking up with Neil Critchley’s side for a season-long loan.

A combination of international duty with Northern Ireland, a controversial red card suspension and squad competition meant he had to fight for game time at first.

However, Ballard is a regular starter now and featured in both of his side’s League One playoff semi-finals against Oxford, providing an assist in the second leg to help his side reach Wembley.

It was a superb assist from the 6ft 2in ace, who somehow managed to keep a corner kick from going out with a diving header towards the centre for Kenny Dougal to slam home.

Ballard was withdrawn at half time at Bloomfield Road, presumably with a knock, but when he took to Twitter after the game, he sounded optimistic about seeing the fans at Wembley.

And plenty of Blackpool fans were eager to sing his praises:

Arsenal’s coaches will certainly be delighted with Ballard’s progress this season and, considering he’s also starred for Northern Ireland at senior level, he clearly has what it takes to shine at the top level, so Arteta really ought to bring him into the senior fold in pre-season and keep an eye out on him.

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