Arsenal have a decision to make regarding whether they look to bring Dani Ceballos back to the club or not. As he looks to prove his value, he can end the remaining questions hanging over him in the next three matches.
When Arsenal signed Dani Ceballos on a season-long loan last summer, there was always the vague hope that he might be convinced to stay with the team beyond just a one-season wonder. This was a Spanish international, a Real Madrid product, a hugely gifted and highly thought-of talent.
However, despite the odd performance here and there that certainly showcased his natural ability and outrageous potential, fast forward to the end of the season and the question has flipped on its head. Arsenal may still need to convince Ceballos to leave Madrid and join them permanently, but Ceballos certainly has not yet fully convinced that he is worth it, something that was somewhat assumed before he arrived.
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After struggling with injuries and inconsistency for much of the year, Ceballos has finally put several excellent performances together in recent weeks. He was superb against Norwich City. He then scored from off the bench against Sheffield United. He conducted play neatly against Wolves, and then dominated Leicester City in the first half on Tuesday.
After the Leicester draw, Mikel Arteta praised Ceballos’ performance, while also revealing that Arsenal and Madrid are having discussions regarding his future, hinting that he would like to see the Spaniard return next season, in one form or another:
“He was superb again <…> Defensively, Dani has made a big step forward with the way he is pressing, the amount of interceptions that he is putting in and he is enjoying it <…> I am really happy with him, I think it is something that the club has to go a little bit further with Real Madrid on. At the moment he is playing very well, I am really happy with him and he is a big talent and still has a lot of things to improve.”
Based on his recent outings, the question of whether to keep Ceballos is an easy one to answer. He has been Arsenal’s best midfielder, their only solution at the position, and someone who could develop into a key piece of the team, especially as he drops a little deeper into a more conducting, press-resistant-type role.
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But doubts still remain. Questions hang over his ability to replicate his performances each and every week, especially in the physically demanding Premier League, something that he has struggled with as a slower, more immobile midfielder, and his performances against higher-quality opponents. Ceballos’ two worst performances of the year came against Liverpool near the start of the season and against Manchester City immediately after lockdown.
As Arsenal continue to have discussions surrounding his future, then, Ceballos has three looming matches in which he can truly prove just how valuable he is. It starts with Sunday’s North London Derby. Then Liverpool come to the Emirates. And finally, a trip to Wembley to play City in the FA Cup semi-finals.
Ceballos is very quickly answering his critiques and proving that Arsenal should try to keep him. But two questions remain: his consistency and his performance against the very best. In the next three games, he can end those questions.