Many of us, including myself, were excited about the loan signing of Dani Ceballos. I previously followed him closely at Real Betis and in the Euro U21’s. As we approach the end of this season, along with his loan expiring, it’s certainly mixed feelings among the fan base as to whether he should be here for the next campaign.
Why we should potentially sign him
I was at his first game at the Emirates against Burnley. He was outstanding. Energetic, dictating play and quality in possession are a few of my descriptions of his man of the match display. I thought to myself after the game that maybe ‘he could be our next Santi’. Unfortunately, his inability to maintain this level of performance, under Emery, left many of us frustrated.
As mentioned in my previous blog, which can be seen here, the improvement amongst certain players is a credit to Arteta. Dani is a key example who has raised his level under the Spaniard. His consistent performances of late has provided me with belief that he can be a player of significant value to us next season.
The key to his improvement has been down to Arteta’s ability to utilise him correctly. He was badly mismanaged under Emery, playing a number of different roles. At times, he’s played as the deepest midfielder, as a number 10 and occasionally played out wide.
Arteta realised that his best position is next to a holding midfielder, in the pivot as an 8. Line breaker and ball progression are key attributes to play this role, which Dani possesses. Technically he’s a fabulous player. The criticism I had of him under Emery was the fact that he wasn’t utilising this aspect of this game to full affect. ‘Fidget spinner’ was a reference some had of him. Too many turns and shoulder drops were frequent in his play as well as not releasing the ball quick enough, which slowed down our overall tempo.
The simple difference now under Arteta is the simplicity implemented back into his game. Simple but extremely effective is what I describe it as! Less frequent turns makes him a lot more unpredictable. His shoulder drops have been utilised in a way that allows him to take players out of the game.
The big aspect of his game he’s improved substantially on is his performances defensively. Both his positional awareness and defensive work rate has gone up a level, winning tackles and providing tenacity. His high energy pressing style and intent to win the ball back quickly further forward has fitted perfectly into Arteta’s system. What I like about him is that he’s able to restore quickly back into his position when pressing high up, and not leaving Xhaka isolated. Statistically, he’s stood out in recent weeks against tough opponents in Wolves, Leicester and Spurs. His influence is also evident when you see how he compares with his fellow teammates.
Dani Ceballos (combined stats vs Wolves, Leicester and Spurs)
Passes completed: 171/191, 90% accuracy ( 1st)
Attacking third passes: 36/44, 81% accuracy (1st)
Tackles won: 7/9: 78% tackle accuracy (2nd)
Ball recoveries: 31 (1st)
‘Complete midfield display’s’ in these highly competitive games both in and out of possession is what these statistics show. Pre COVID 19, other standout performances of his were against Newcastle, Everton and West Ham.
He has a lot of other desirable traits as well. One being his ‘press resistant’ nature. He’s the best player in the squad who is able to receive the ball from the keeper, in tight spaces, and start attacks through progressive passing or carrying the ball from deep to the attacking third. Obviously an aspect he must work on is to provide more goal involvements, with only two goals and two assists in all competitions. But it’s fair to say that he can bring plenty of essential attributes to the table when utilised correctly.
The worry I have with Dani is whether he’s playing for a contract, and has only raised his performance level to provide attraction to potential suitors across Europe. It’s well known that Zidane isn’t keen on him, deeming him surplus to requirements. Perhaps this has provided him motivation to prove to clubs what he’s capable of .
We have to remember that his performances for the first half of the season, were underwhelming, displaying many ‘bad habits’. We saw plenty under Emery such as lack of ball retention, poor positional awareness and guilty of holding onto the ball too much. I love Mesut Ozil but you could see that his performances had dipped once his contact was extended. This is my slight worry with Dani as well.
We also might have to ask ourselves if there are better players out there. Arteta is looking to transition into a 4-3-3 eventually when he has his preferred players. If the opportunity arises, are players like Housemm Aour, Dominik Szoboszlai and Emiliano Buendia, for example, more exciting, with greater potential? I think the type of deal Real Madrid are looking to provide is the biggest conundrum. The two deals I see them doing are either a loan with obligation to buy or a straight permanent deal. I would say that above £40 million would be too much. However, today there are suggestions in the media that it might be only £22.5m). There are definitely better options out there available for the same amount or less. But what we know is that there are a few factors to consider in whether we should keep him on.
The track record of Arteta improving players at Manchester City, like Sterling, has already transitioned at the Emirates, with Dani benefiting massively. Ceballos has spoken out about how he’s saved clips of Luis Enrique’s positive comments about him when he’s feeling low. This suggests to me that he’s a confidence player and Arteta has clearly provided the right management skills needed to get the best out of him.
Obviously a big factor is whether Dani is interested in another year at the Emirates. He’s rumoured to be looking to go back to Spain next year. If that’s the case then obviously there is nothing we can do and we have to part ways.
But let’s say he does want to stay. If Real Madrid proposed a loan with an obligation to buy of around £30 million, I would do it. I would certain do it for the under £25 million price. Only 23 years old, huge potential and has shown us what he’s capable of. If Thomas Partey can be brung in, a midfield trio of Xhaka, Partey and Ceballos would be exciting and would provide a solid foundation in games against tough opposition.
Include Buendia into this mix, for example, and this would provide increased competition and depth. We can play a slightly more attacking trio of Partey, Ceballos and Bunedia in games where we are able to dictate more. Partey as the destroyer, controller and line breaker. Ceballos providing progression from deep and Buednia as the creative influencer.
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23 years of age, 23 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.