New boy Dani Ceballos got his first full debut in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Burnley at the weekend and he did not disappoint, being involved in both goals.
It was a tough, hard-fought victory for the Gunners in Saturday’s early kickoff, as they edged past Sean Dyche’s “difficult” Burnley 2-1, thanks to a couple of goals from the usual front-line suspects.
Alexandre Lacazette opened the scoring for Arsenal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed the victory, but it was the man of the match performance of midfield loanee Dani Ceballos, on his full debut for the club, that caught the eyes of many.
The 23-year-old was everywhere. You could find him collecting the ball off his goalkeeper or driving at the Clarets defence. And he did both with class.
First of all, it’s easy to pinpoint the fact that Ceballos brings to Arsenal something they have not had since the days of Cazorla – an extremely technically gifted No 8 that is capable of evading the press in midfield by retaining the ball with exquisite dribbling, or threading a pass or two.
It didn’t take long before the clock end struck up a chant you suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more in the months to come.
“Oh Dani Ceballos,” came the cry over and over again to a tune Arsenal supporters used to sing for Santi Cazorla.
It would take quite some impact for the Real Madrid loanee to earn the same affection in one year that his compatriot earned over six years of blistering highs and crushing injury lows but if he repeats his Emirates debut consistently, he is certainly not going to lack for support in the coming months.
At the peak of Ceballos’ performance against Burnley, you almost got the feeling of nostalgia, as if his style of play brought back a little taste of the flair and technical quality that Arsenal became so famous for under Arsene Wenger.
Sadly, the 23-year-old is on loan at Arsenal from Real Madrid until the end of the season, and it is understood that there is no mandatory or optional future fee for the player, so he is expected to return to the Bernabeu next year as of now.
The Spaniard was doing everything for his team on Saturday, playing in a double pivot alongside the brilliant Matteo Guendouzi, just behind the always-improving Joe Willock, whom he interchanged with often during the match.
Simply he put he was everywhere on the pitch. Literally.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 17, 2019
What makes him unique is how standout he is to other Arsenal midfield options.
Granit Xhaka’s long passes could turn defence into attack in a heartbeat but were more liable to being picked off.
Matteo Guendouzi is developing into a player capable of doing much of what Ceballos does but he is far from the finished article.
Lucas Torreira and Arsenal’s previous No.8 – Aaron Ramsey – were more adept at covering ground and making telling contributions at key moments than dictating play.
And if Emery wants to be totally devastating in an attacking sense, he can field both Mesut Ozil and Dani Ceballos in a midfield pivot. Creativity everywhere.
The new man is far more like Cazorla than any player Arsenal have had in recent years. He may lack his two-footedness but an early chance was rich evidence of Ceballos’ quickness of feet.
Questions are always raised as to whether players like Ceballos can adapt to the Premier League, bearing in mind that the Gunners are full of technically gifted players who struggle to impose themselves physically.
This Spaniard though, bossed the whole park not just technically but physically as well. He had the most recoveries of any Arsenal player(7) and despite coming off the pitch at 83 mins, he covered the most distance on pitch as well (9.9km).
Dani Ceballos for Arsenal vs. Burnley:
• Most touches
• Most passes
• Most passes in the opp. half
• Most chances created
• Most recoveries
• Most fouls won
• Most assists
• Most duels
• =Most tackles
• =Most take-ons
• =Most shots
Involved in everything. pic.twitter.com/90NAHRAKF5
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 17, 2019
In one word, he had a “perfect” afternoon and a midas touch to every ball he played.
Of course it would be wise for Emery and his Arsenal staff not to get carried away on the basis of one impressive performance at home to a mid-table side. Probably so. Still nothing to stop the Emirates faithful from getting excited though.
While Ceballos’ performance was sublime, it will be interesting to see how a player like him copes with more intense, tactical clashes against big sides. We may get the answer to that soon, as Arsenal take on Liverpool and Spurs in their next two games.
The Spaniard still has plenty of competition for midfield places, and there’s still a long season ahead, but so far, all the signs are pointing in the right direction in this loan deal.
He might not have cost much but we don’t know – he might just turn out to be Arsenal’s “most expensive” signing of the summer.