Dani Ceballos started his first match for Arsenal on Saturday and lit up Emirates Stadium in the Gunners’ 2-1 victory. The Spaniard lifted Unai Emery’s side through a difficult match, getting Arsenal back to back Premier League wins to start a season for the first time since 2009/2010.
Ceballos arrived in London this summer from Real Madrid on a season-long loan. He made his debut off the bench against Newcastle and struggled to get into the game. Against Burnley, he got a start and not only got into the game but dominated it.
One of Ceballos’ main qualities is his ability to progress the ball from the defensive third of the pitch to the middle third and the middle third to the final third. His ball progression ability was apparent as he completed more passes than anyone else on the pitch and was tied with fellow new signing Nicolas Pepe for the most completed dribbles, according to WhoScored.com.
Ceballos’ close control stood out throughout the match. He was able to keep possession and bring the ball up the pitch, not just with sideways passes. Along with the aforementioned dribbles, he also won three fouls, as the Burnley players struggled to get near him. His quick feet and Spanish nationality have already drawn comparisons to Santi Cazorla, a player the Gunners have sorely missed since his departure.
The Spaniard’s ability to move the ball up the pitch was expected, but a pleasant surprise for Arsenal fans was what he showed in the final third. His natural position is in central midfield as a number eight, but he was drafted in as a number 10 against Burnley. It may not be his preferred position, but he handled the responsibilities of being further up the pitch admirably. He assisted both goals, played four key passes in total and got three shots for himself, according to Whoscored.com.
Ceballos’ impact could be the difference between Arsenal getting back into the Champions League and missing out for the third year in a row. If the 23-year-old can continue the type of form he showed against the Clarets, Emery will like his chances to get his side back into the top four.