LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 16: Dani Ceballos of Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on February 16, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)
Arsenal finally handed Dani Ceballos a Premier League start, his first since November, and let’s just say the Burnley encore was worth waiting for.
Way back in August, Arsenal witnessed a truly magical match from Dani Ceballos against Burnley. It was after that match that many figured our problems were solved. We had our guy, our reincarnation of Santi Cazorla, and he was going to solve the Mesut Ozil problems and make his move permanent and all those wonderful things.
Problem is, the encore performance never came. Ceballos was lights out against Burnley, accounting for two assists, but in the matches to follow, he was a non-factor. He had his moments of effectiveness, but never a full match.
Then he got hurt and promptly disappeared from our thoughts, residing in the back of our minds. That was only kicked up when it was rumored he may cut his loan deal short.
Here we are, six months later, and the encore has finally come. Against Newcastle, Dani Ceballos was everything. He was so good that Granit Xhaka‘s M.O. became just feeding the ball to Ceballos. Give the ball to the hot foot.
Ceballos didn’t tally a goal or an assist, but he didn’t need to. His movement off the ball looked so foreign. It looked like pure gold. We haven’t seen that kind of movement off the ball since Ramsey left or since… Burnley in August.
Ceballos controlled the game. He touched the ball more than anyone, he completed just under 100% of his passes, he created chances from near and far, and he was unflappable with the ball.
Most importantly, as already alluded to, he introduced movement into this attack like we have grown so accustomed to not having. When he moved, he opened up space for his teammates to move and all of a sudden, they remembered that they could move off the ball as well. Every time he gave up the ball, he didn’t drop back, or linger, he ran forward, he hit the gaps, he did what you would think would be common sense.
And he defended too. It was dicey, sticking him out there with Granit Xhaka as the midfield base, but Ceballos was incredibly present on the defensive side of things.
Ceballos wanted to come back, he wanted to earn his place and this match will do that. Now let’s just hope this isn’t another Burnley situation and his next great match can come in… I don’t know, a week?