Arsenal drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Thursday.
With an apparent corner turned, Crystal Palace heading to the Emirates Stadium presented the perfect opportunity for Arsenal to confirm that notion: a side who’ve become something of a bogey side.
Starting with the bit between their teeth and fronted by a fired up Dani Ceballos, Arsenal kicked off proceedings well without being overly dangerous. Regardless of whether the side start well or finish well, the common denominator is that these spells of pressure can’t be sustained.
Arsenal tailed off just as the Eagles’ tails perked up with the first half ending goalless, although it could easily have been far worse for the hosts as Bernd Leno produced a superb flying save and James Tomkins saw his header rattle the bar.
Mikel Arteta clearly got stuck into his players during the break as they came flying out of the traps once more, only this time with greater purpose. Playing with a pace that is impossible to match for an entire half – at least with this crop of players – no goals came after a positive restart and the same story followed.
Plenty of probing without much in the way of penetration, the mantra of making sure you don’t lose if you can’t win slowly crept into the fans’ and players’ minds, with 0-0 the end result. Here’s what we learned from Thursday night.
Dani Ceballos’ Fire
When your side is stacked full of quality from top to bottom and still your club goes out and buys a another midfielder *cough Liverpool cough* for example, the reasons for that are clear: raise the competition.
It doesn’t matter what walk of life you’re in, whether you’re angling for the last pack of toilet roll in the supermarket shelf or if your girlfriend’s younger brother is embarrassing you on FIFA, you’ve got to try harder to up the ante in the face of competition.
For about 55 minutes of Thursday night, Ceballos was a man who knew full well that Thomas Partey was sat on the bench primed and ready. The Spaniard isn’t the quickest, yet sheer desire saw him move about with more purpose, get his head up quicker and add bite to his passing.
In the first half he produced the two of the best passes he’s made during his time at the club. He knows that the Ghanaian is his competition. Now he’s back fully fit, it’ll be Partey and Xhaka. Ceballos is not blind to that eventuality, but he’s doing his best to convince Arteta that a Ceballos/Partey combination is feasible.
His display fizzled out as the match wore on and Partey’s entrance in his stead gave a clear indication of the manager’s intentions for Monday, but Ceballos did offer food for thought, particularly in that first half. Whether it gets him a spot or not, it’s evident how vital Partey is to Arsenal, in more than just his own ability.