Dani Ceballos: Arsenal's next Santi Cazorla or another Denis Suarez?
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Dani Ceballos joins a distinguished cult of Spanish playmakers to represent Arsenal. Santi Cazorla and Denis Suarez are the most recent inductees. On whose fortune will he resemble most once his 12-month loan expires?
Arsenal's summer hasn't quite gone as intended. Mute as a mouse, the Gunners quietly watched rivals topple over one another in the market space. Their aura has only lured little-known Gabriel Martinelli and 18-year-old William Saliba. Despite a rich armoury, Unai Emery keeps missing his primary target, Wilfried Zaha. No surprise as the Ivorian is an Eagle.
Emery needs more, especially in midfield. Aaron Ramsey’s departure rendered his team short in that department. Arsenal miss the Welshman's creative hunch, dynamism and unpredictability in the final third. No current squad member possesses such an innate ability besides Mesut Ozil, only the German is rarely in the mood these days.
Emery's options are a bit thin on the ground. He has Lucas Torreira to win the ball in midfield. Matteo Guendouzi as a competent connector. Granit Xhaka who can score from deep. Neither, though, can spot a pass and thread it from deep to create chances.
Enter Dani Ceballos.
Joining from Real Madrid, the 22-year-old ticks the box without damaging Arsenal's limited budget. He will fill Ramsey's void but in a slightly different way. While Juventus' new star is a box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal, the Spain international is composed, passes well, and has technical qualities.
Ceballos can act as the conduit for everything to run smoothly at the Emirates. He breaks up the play like Torreira, finds a pass almost as naturally as Ozil, is hard working similar to Guendouzi, and shoots well from a distance like Xhaka. Beating players for fun isn't a problem for him, either.
After two underwhelming years in Madrid, Ceballos reminded everyone of his potential during last month's European U21 Championship. There were long-range stunners, sublime assists, outrageous moments of skill and controlling performances. The youngster's overall influence was crucial, captaining La Rojita to the trophy.
Now a Gooner, there is the early comparison to both Cazorla and Suarez - two Spanish imports who had contrasting experiences in North London. While the former is still held in high esteem after six memorable years, Suarez's six-month loan deal culminated in disappointment.
Cazorla arrived as an attacker before dropping back to knit the team together. Frail in physique, albeit excellent at getting the ball forward through passing and dribbling ability. Those traits made him one of the Premier League's most revered midfielders.
Seven months after Cazorla left, Suarez joined, in January's window. His time in England was hampered by injuries. The Barcelona man's nimble feet, slick touches, and pace all eluded him. Emery offered his ex-disciple six substitute appearances before opting out of making the deal permanent.
Although extremely gifted, Ceballos could follow Suarez' footsteps. He has little time to adapt to the language, culture, weather and playing style. It usually takes a year for players to figure out the pace and power of the Premier League. His time could be exhausted trying to adjust.
Moreover, Ceballos' versatility is perhaps a curse. It will take Emery awhile to sort his perfect position. By then, the midfielder's brief Arsenal experiment may be approaching its end.