Dani Ceballos’ first Arsenal spell was indifferent.
It took the Spaniard only 45 minutes of his debut for Santi Cazorla comparisons to be drawn, as he put in a fine display in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Burnley.
As the season wore on, his form dipped, injury halted his progress entirely and he fell into the trap of mediocrity that permeated across the whole team. When Arsenal started to improve, so did Dani Ceballos, a series of events that appear more than just coincidence.
Due to that end to the season, supporters longed for another flirt with the Premier League, one Mikel Arteta pursued and Real Madrid sanctioned. However, the midfielder is yet to hit top form, with work to be done.
As ever, he still looks silky on the ball and makes neat touches in tight areas. Following on from last season, those elements haven’t faded.
Operating deeper, he’s had to show a different range to his passing with the majority of his distribution going to wide areas, while that role has also seen him take on more defensive responsibility.
In the Europa League we’ve witnessed a better reading of danger, which came as a pleasant surprise.
Not getting into the team.
I championed the idea of Ceballos being granted more freedom to sit high up the pitch with the inclusion of Thomas Partey, yet instead he’s dropped in favour of Mohamed Elneny or Granit Xhaka. Even when he does play, he sits the deepest of the midfield trio.
This is Arteta’s decision, but it means Ceballos’ output is limited to sideways passing and cutting off lines of distribution. He’s not mobile enough to get about the pitch, but has more to offer than what he’s being granted to show.
Best Moment – Hammer Blow
Chasing the game against West Ham in the annual home slog against the Hammers, Ceballos’ best performance of the season was instrumental in Arsenal leaving with three points. David Moyes’ side were happy to sit deep, meaning it would require a touch of invention to salvage victory.
Playing in that deeper role he’s slotted into under Arteta, he was given license to play his way up the pitch into advanced areas, setting the tempo of the attacks as he went.
His movement into the box before setting up Eddie Nketiah was just rewards for his efforts.
Dani Ceballos’ Arsenal Rating