The two things Dani Ceballos must do to take Arsenal to the next level


Dani Ceballos is back at Arsenal for a second season after agreeing another season-long loan from Real Madrid.

The Spanish midfielder was a key part of Mikel Arteta’s team in the second half of the campaign as the Gunners finished eighth in the Premier League and lifted the FA Cup.

Originally joining under Unai Emery, a stunning display against Burnley last August on his home debut whetted the appetite of the Arsenal faithful. But as the team struggled, so did the midfielder.

When he picked up a hamstring injury in November, Arsenal fans would have been forgiven for thinking they’d seen the last of Ceballos, consigning him to the recent list of loan flops that include illustrious names such as Kim Kallstrom and Denis Suarez.

But after three months out, new manager Arteta brought Caballos back into his line-up, where he often featured as part of a double-pivot in the centre of the park with Granit Xhaka.

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Ceballos’ form picked up as he impressed both defensively and in transition. Averaging 1.9 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per game, the Spaniard was second only to Ainsley Maitland-Niles in both categories over the course of the entire season.

Meanwhile, averaging 1.1 dribbles per game saw him rank fourth in the team behind Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pepe and Hector Bellerin, all of whom play in wider areas. In terms of Key passes he was third behind Pepe and Mesut Ozil, who again are deployed further up the pitch.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad first season in England for Ceballos, particularly given Arsenal’s troubles and his injury lay-off. Even so, both he and Arteta will be expecting him to kick on this term.

During that game against Burnley, Ceballos was credited with both assists in a 2-1 win. However, while he did take the corner that led to Alexandre Lacazette’s opening goal, the French striker still had work to do when the cross somewhat fortuitously landed at his feet.

Equally for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s winner, the striker was able to pick up the ball after the ball ran loose after a Ceballos tackle in midfield, so neither assist can be described as fully intentional.

That Ceballos also failed to register another over the course of the season suggests it is something that will need to be improved upon this campaign, especially given his passing ability which clocked in at 87.9% accuracy over the course of the season – fifth overall in the Arsenal squad.

As well as creating more going forward, Ceballos will also hope to start getting his own name on the scoresheet far more often.

A memorable late winner against Sheffield United in the FA Cup aside, his only other goal for Arsenal came in a Europa League win over Standard Liege, finishing from close-range to score the final goal in a 4-0 win.

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Averaging just 0.5 shots per game, Ceballos trailed behind than the likes of Shkodran Mustafi (0.7) and Callum Chambers (0.9), so will hope to contribute more on that front this time around.

Defensively, Ceballos was also dribbled past more than any other Arsenal player, losing out 1.8 times per game. As Arteta looks to make the Gunners more secure defensively, this is something that the player needs to minimise.

In all, Arsenal know they have a decent player on their hands once again and both parties will be aware that, with a year under his belt, even a slight improvement would make Ceballos an extremely useful asset as the Gunners look to realise their ambitions.

All stats from WhoScored.





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