By: Kamusime Barnabas
On-loan Real Madrid star Dani Ceballos was instrumental in the 2-0 win over City
Arsenal’s victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final was perhaps the greatest indication yet of Mikel Arteta’s potential as a manager.
It was an expert display of nullification and tactical superiority against the best manager and one of the best teams in the world. Arteta had, it seemed, learned from the master, and used that knowledge to beat him.
There were several standout performers in an Arsenal shirt. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will get the plaudits again for his goals. Emiliano Martinez was impressive again in goal and David Luiz and Mustafi confounded their many critics.
In midfield, it was Dani Ceballos who caught the eye once again. The Spaniard was masterful in the first half, dictating the tempo from a deep-lying role in midfield and repeatedly playing incisive, line-breaking passes.
This was an excellent defensive display from Ceballos, too. Alongside Xhaka, he harried, blocked and closed off spaces tirelessly. He is a midfielder, on the basis of this display, who appears capable of doing it all.
That is not news to those who have watched Arsenal closely over the last few weeks. Ceballos has been superb since the restart, and by now the Gunners are likely even more determined to sign him permanently from Real Madrid.
Ceballos’ form, and his burgeoning partnership with Xhaka, will raise questions as to where Thomas Partey would fit in should he arrive from Atletico Madrid, as has been widely reported, this summer.
The Ghanaian is an effective holding midfielder who would no doubt offer plenty to this Arsenal midfield. But Arteta appears to have struck gold. Ceballos is a player equally adept at receiving the ball from defenders and playing through the lines to more advanced teammates as he is operating in a more advanced, creative role.
Against City, much of Ceballos’ time, particularly in the second half, was spent defending his own box. And he did it very well. The on-loan Real Madrid man is intelligent enough to follow Arteta’s undoubtedly very detailed instructions without any lapses in concentration or discipline.
Arteta, then, may begin to wonder if prioritising the addition of a new midfielder should be the priority. As a duo, in this 3-4-3 system that has proved so effective of late, Ceballos and Xhaka are showing signs of real promise.