Ceballos thrives as deep-lying play-maker v Toon – Stick or Twist on Dani?


Dani Ceballos – Stick or Twist?

Yesterday’s home victory against Steve Bruce’s Newcastle was full of surprises. It was a surprise to see Arsenal score four of course, although to be fair to Arteta, a clean sheet from a rapidly improving defensive unit was less of a shock.  It was ahead of the match, when team selection was revealed however, that we call got our first surprises with Ceballos and Nketia selected to start.

I think the story of Guendouzi’s fall from favour, after playing the fool in Dubai, will emerge as the day goes on but nevertheless, I can’t imagine many predicted Ceballos would start alongside Xhaka, with Torreira left on the bench. Indeed, even Willock has had the nod over the Spaniard since his return to fitness. However, from my perspective at least, young Dani, did more than enough to justify Arteta’s faith and the mutual Spanish hug and love-in on the touch line when Ceballos gave way for Torreira, suggested strongly that our coach felt the same.

As I commented after the match, as I made my way from the ground, Ceballos has given Arteta a lovely positive dilemma for the remainder of the season and one, with rumours in January that the loanee wanted out, we might not have anticipated.

As a result, here are some random thoughts on the Ceballos dilemma, both now and come May….

  • Whilst a surprise selection alongside Xhaka over the more combative and defensive Torreira it might make sense at home against sides who are coming to defend and play for a draw or to nick a result on the break. The Spaniard certainly offers more offensive qualities than the Uruguayan. Away from home or against the top teams our 5ft 4 pocket dynamo might get the nod – but when trying to unlock stubborn defenses, Ceballos certainly has the know-how. (If you want to unlock the best deals with bookmakers, then try this bonus code for 2020).
  • Ceballos reminds me of Arteta when Wenger moved him back to the base of the midfield. He has game intelligence, recycles the ball quickly and efficiently and yesterday certainly showed great anticipation and snuffed out potentially dangerous situations and he also reacted swiftly on many occasions to win second ball.
  • If the young Spaniard is willing to learn this role, he has the perfect mentor. It was a surprise to see him starting deeper than Xhaka, but I am guessing his performance there perhaps did not surprise Arteta. This is interesting in itself as the coach revealed only a few weeks ago how he was very familiar with Ceballos but not certain of his best position.

Dani has a perfect coach in Arteta

  • All that said, whilst strength is not fundamental to the deep lying midfield role it certainly helps – and at present Ceballos can be out-muscled in duels. This is nothing that more game time and gym time cannot resolve.
  • Once Arteta has one or both of his natural fullbacks available to him it will be interesting to see what shape the midfield takes. Granit Xhaka’s experience and positional discipline has improved dramatically under the new coach and this has been perfectly illustrated by his willingness and ability to cover Saka, as a ‘highly’ attacking fullback. Once Kolasinac or Tierney return I will be fascinated to see if Arteta tries Ceballos on the left and ahead of Torreira.
  • Both Ceballos and Xhaka have linked well with Ozil but the connection between Ceballos and Ozil, as well as Ceballos with Pepe was evident yesterday. One could argue that Xhaka is the more accurate passer and has a more varied range, certainly oi longer passes but Ceballos releases the ball quicker, which has been an issue for Arsenal of late. We need to move the ball quicker and the Spaniard is exemplary in this.

Needs to be playing to make Euros

  • I guess the next few weeks and months will show us how much Arteta rates Ceballos and also how much the latter wants to make this loan a permanent move. He needs to be playing regularly to make the Spanish Euro squad and Busquets and Cazorla are not getting any younger.
  • What cannot be doubted given the way he celebrated the fist goal was Dani’s passion and his desire to succeed at Arsenal. His reactions yesterday, his obvious on and off the pitch friendship with Bellerin and his gesticulating, arm waving and pointing to rival Flamini in his pomp indicate the boy wants to earn a deal.


  • I for one will be fascinated to see how this story unfolds between now and May. Arteta has a big squad but only a handful of his players I feel can be 100% confident in their starting shirts. Ceballos will certainly feel – whether he is with us next season or not – that he has a key role to play and the ability to write his name into a small part of Arsenal folklore, at the very least.
  • And I have not even explored the possibility of Dani playing more advanced ahead of Xhaka and Torreira. Perhaps another day……

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One Response to Ceballos thrives as deep-lying play-maker v Toon – Stick or Twist on Dani?

  1. Graham Perry February 17, 2020 at 12:46 pm #

    Excellent piece Dave – I, too, thought Ceballos was a key figure and it was not just his vision but his speed of pass and eagerness to move things forward

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