When Dani Ceballos joined the Gunners on loan from Real Madrid last season, much was expected of him and it was fair to say that he was the direct replacement for the departing Aaron Ramsey, an Arsenal stalwart that served the club for many years before his big money move to Juventus. Ceballos himself had a triumphant European campaign with the Spanish U-21s a couple of seasons ago, so there was already some pedigree associated with a player coming from Real Madrid.
The fear of the unknown still existed as we had not really seen him in consistent action to make fair judgment of his abilities, so the onus was on him to make an impression on the pitch and boy, did he do that in the 2-1 win against Burnley early in the season. Ceballos had the Emirates sunshine on him that afternoon as he played the Clarets across the pack with two assists that had the fans run out of superlatives for him. However, he struggled to build on that early season form and the injury he suffered in a Europa League fixture compounded his woes.
With constant bench time, Ceballos became a bit disgruntled under Unai Emery and made his feelings known to the new manager, Mikel Arteta, stating that he wanted to cut his loan spell short and return to Real Madrid. Arteta, on the other hand, didn’t heed to his demands to leave but instead hyped him up to the media of how he wanted him to remain at the club.
“I like him (Ceballos) more when he’s close to the box rather than coming deep to receive the ball. Defensively he can play in a two, rather than as a number 10. I don’t really see him as an isolated number 10 playing with two holding midfielder.
“He’s a very creative player, one who can cause problems in the final third, he always wants the ball, he had big personality to play so I like him.”
With Matteo Guendouzi falling out of favor with the gaffer and Lucas Torreira suffering that nasty ankle injury in the FA Cup clash with Portsmouth, the door opened for Ceballos to make his mark on the team and he never looked back. According to WhoScored, Ceballos averaged 1.9 tackles per match and 1.3 interceptions, while maintaining a completed passing percentage of 87.9 percent. He also made 1.2 key passes per game and averaged 3.2 long balls, as it turned out to be one of his specialties, switching plays on both sides to support the attack. Then there was the all-important last minute winner in the FA Cup quarterfinals against Sheffield United, which gave the Gunners the impetus to their FA Cup triumph.
There was some dispute around the contractual situation with Real Madrid and it seemed that he was odds on to return to his parent club, leaving the Gunners with a central midfield hole to fill up, and coupled with the fact that Lucas Torreira is edging closer to the exit door and the Gunners not anywhere close to signing Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid, it was going to be challenging to see who would partner with Granit Xhaka in central midfield. Yes, Mohamed Elneny has returned from his loan spell with Besiktas and we still have the fledgling Joe Willock in our ranks, but in all honesty, these are not players that can nail a first team berth and are just squad options at best.
Which is why the club’s decision to retain Ceballos’ services on loan for another season is a very welcome addition to the new season. Ceballos has spent a full season in England and doesn’t need any adaptation process, and he’s loved by the fans, which is a welcome bonus for the player and the club. The manager, Mikel Arteta, also had some encouraging words on the signing,
“Dani was an integral part of our team last season and finished the season in excellent form. I love Dani’s passion and commitment and he’s a highly skilflul player. We’re all delighted to welcome him back and we look forward to seeing him pick up where he left off”
I am looking forward to watching Ceballos in action this season and I hope he can continue in the form that saw him finish last season superbly and prompt the Gunners to reach an agreement with Real Madrid for another season of his services.
A proud Arsenal fan with a good sense of humor. Gooner Daily’s blogger. (Follow @goonerdaily)