Should Arsenal Stick or Twist on Dani Ceballos?
ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 18: Dani Ceballos of Arsenal in action during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between SL Benfica and Arsenal FC at Stadio Olimpico on February 18, 2021 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/Getty Images)

Following a tepid 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Europa League last 16 tie against Portuguese side Benfica, Arsenal have it all to do in the second fixture at the Karaiskakis Stadium in a weeks time. 

However, amongst a plethora of subpar performances for the Gunners, Dani Ceballos quietly illustrated his credentials, combining intricate attacking play with defensive solidity against Os Encarnados

It has recently been reported that the Real Madrid loanee could be available for as little as £22million in the upcoming summer transfer window, yet it remains to be seen whether Arsenal will take a punt on the Spanish international. 

With that said, should the Gunners take up the permanent option and purchase the 24-year-old, or should Mikel Arteta pass up the opportunity? 

Well-rounded Midfielder

First and foremost, Ceballos is a versatile presence in the centre of midfield who is capable of defence-splitting passes as well last-ditch tackles.

This can be exemplified by his showing against Benfica as he registered 74 successful passes (92.5% accuracy) as well as eight ball recoveries, two interceptions and two tackles. 

It is clear that Arteta is looking to add balance and dynamism to his midfield and Ceballos certainly ticks both boxes. Whilst Arsenal's first choice midfield pairing has predominantly been Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka, Ceballos has performed well regardless of who he sits alongside in the double pivot. 

Despite his limited inclusion, in 11 Premier League starts so far in the 2020/21 season, Ceballos has averaged 1.5 tackles, 1.7 interceptions & 1.3 dribbles per 90, compared to Xhaka who has registered 1.2, 1.6 & 0.8 and Partey who averages 1.7, 0.6 & 1.4 respectively.

Therefore it is evident that Ceballos is a well-rounded midfielder who has the capabilities to perform under Arteta and would seemingly benefit from increased game time.

He is able to compliment the likes of Partey and Xhaka whilst linking up well with an attacking midfielder, such as Emile Smith Rowe or Martin Ødegaard

Style of Play

As aforementioned, not only is Ceballos able to carry out the offensive and defensive side of the game, but his style of play suits the way in which Arsenal and Arteta want to play. 

Under Arteta, the Gunners look to transition quickly from the defensive third to the attacking third with clever movement between the lines and intricate passing.

Ceballos is more than capable of linking Arsenal's backline to their forward line, as demonstrated by his passing stats in the Premier League so far this season. 

Ceballos has averaged 1.46 key passes per 90 in the Premier League in the 2020/21 season, highlighting the fact that he directly contributes to passes that lead to a shot on the opposition goal.

Additionally, Ceballos has registered 7.8 final third passes per 90 in the league, showing that he is pivotal to Arsenal transitioning from defence to attack. More specifically, the Spaniard completes 1.3 passes into the opposition box per game, which helps provide goal scoring opportunities for the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka

It is clear that Ceballos suits the style of play that Arteta wants to implement, registering solid progressive passing stats and chance creation to reinforce that notion. 

Halts Development of Hale End Youngsters?

However, for all of the upsides that come with the permanent signing of Ceballos, there are a couple of question marks that remain, one of which is the potential to stop the development of some of Arsenal's Hale End graduates, such as Joe Willock.

Both players perform similar roles and it is unlikely that Arteta opts to keep both in the ranks considering his squad is already bloated.

Willock is currently spending the remainder of the 2020/21 season on loan at Newcastle United and has performed impressively thus far.

The 21-year-old has a bit more freedom under Steve Bruce and has shown signs of his ability, combining passing triangles with late runs into the box and even has a goal to his name. It appears as though the signing of Ceballos would spell the end of Willock's time at the Emirates.

However, if the youngster continues to play a key role at Newcastle, not only could his market value increase, but so could the chances of a Baggies bid in the summer transfer window. 

Secondly, although £22m is not a significant outlay in today's market the economic and financial turmoil caused by the Coronavirus pandemic means that clubs have to be frugal with their funds for the foreseeable future.

Arsenal are in need of an attacking midfielder and could be in the market for a right-sided centre back as well as a right back, meaning the upcoming summer window will not be an inexpensive one.

Furthermore, the Gunners look set to retain Maty Ryan following his loan spell from Brighton and could yet extent David Luiz's contract for another year. With that said, it remains to be seen whether Edu and co. can afford to spend £22m on a squad rotation player.