Dani Ceballos looks set to return home to boyhood club Real Betis.
Despite his and Mikel Arteta‘s mutual admiration for one another, he won’t be coming back to north London. Unfortunately, it appears Dani Ceballos has finally chosen his destination for next season. His choice was never Real Madrid, as he doesn’t believe he’ll be able to play under Zinedine Zidane, and has no spot within the team. His choice was between Arsenal and his hometown club, Real Betis.
According to recent reports out of Spain, he has chosen Betis. I don’t fault his choice in the slightest, and though I will miss him dearly, his future at Arsenal was always going to be temporary.
Dani Ceballos: In Memoriam
The focus of this piece will be to look back at the Spaniard’s one-year Arsenal career, at both the good and the bad. I’ll also assess his role in the team, and what we’re actually missing out on.
It’s fair to say Ceballos had a rough start to the campaign. With the notable exception of the Burnley win, where he convinced us he was the reincarnation of Santi Cazorla, he really didn’t do much. His only two assists on the season came in that game, and his next goal contribution wouldn’t occur for another two months, and he didn’t play the full 90 minutes till three weeks after that.
And it got worse from there. He missed 11 straight games with a torn muscle bundle, and failed to appear in the seven matches after that – six times he was left on the bench, and once he was omitted from the squad entirely. He didn’t miss a subsequent game, but only played the full 90 in five of those 19 matches, scoring one goal, albeit a crucial one against Sheffield United.
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Those are pretty deplorable numbers, especially for a player signed to fill the creative void in Arsenal’s squad. And now that he’s likely staying in Spain, that void will need filling, and Ceballos will need replacing.
So why all the hype around the 24-year-old, if the numbers imply he failed? Well that’s the rub about Dani. He wasn’t the player we expected, but he was the one we desperately needed.
I’m not going to quote the same exact stat I do in every Ceballos-centric piece. Y’all know what it is by now. Suffice to say that he put on a box-to-box performance that would put Claudio Marchisio to shame.
He was our best defensive player after the restart, and drew countless fouls carrying the ball out of the back. Even though he didn’t assist many (or any) goals, he was pure consistency in his distribution through the midfield, and had a special tendency to draw opponents inwards, allowing the Gunners to exploit the flanks more efficiently.
But the best part about his post-lockdown resurgence was the intangible portions of his game. He was a paragon of the Arteta project, going above and beyond his perceived abilities almost every game. Even without the end product we might have wanted, his impact on every match was far more than a mere creative player.
All I can say is that, despite his ups-and-downs, Ceballos was a Gunner at heart, and that might just be the most glowing endorsement I can give anyone. Wherever he ends up, I wish him the best. ¡Buena salud y buena suerte, Dani!