Arsenal will hope to treat Everton like they treated Newcastle, and Dani Ceballos will play a big part in that. As long as he can do what he’s never done before.
There were a ton of standout performers for Arsenal against Newcastle. Mesut Ozil and Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka and Dani Ceballos—it’s always good when numerous guys take home man of the match from numerous sources. I gave it to Pepe, Arsenal gave it to Saka, many others gave it to Ozil and still more gave it to Dani Ceballos.
But no matter who you gave it to, nearly everyone agreed that what instigated the change in this attack was Dani Ceballos. The Spanish midfielder got his return to the starting XI at long last and he delivered his best performance since Burnley.
Actually, he delivered only his second great performance of the season, including Burnley. It was an inspired performance, and it showed his fire and passion for this club, despite it being a short-term stay (for now), but now Ceballos has to do what he hasn’t been able to do all year—he has to do it again.
After Burnley, I was anointing Ceballos with all kinds of platitudes. Shamelessly. I hadn’t seen a performance like that since Santi Cazorla.
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But he promptly disappeared and got hurt after that, nearly cutting his loan short, and now, on his return to the pitch and to effectiveness, we really need to see him do the same thing he did against Newcastle, against Everton.
When the team traveled to Greece, we didn’t see the kind of movement that Ceballos provided against Newcastle. That’s because he instigated that movement, and the ripple effect brought Mesut Ozil and Pepe in to the match more and more, and the game flowed around him.
We need that affect to become common. It doesn’t always have to start with Ceballos, either. Ozil can start it, so can Pepe, so can Granit Xhaka, even. But in the early going, when we’re still trying to figure out how to make it a consistent thing, it’s probably going to be Ceballos who’s our best chance of keeping that movement going. That means a repeat performance. Something he hasn’t been able to provide.
The good news is that we know he’s capable of it. It’s a home match, which is always nice, and Ceballos is certainly running high on confidence right now. Game on.