Unai Emery’s Arsenal made a good start to the season on Sunday against Newcastle as they edged past the Toon 1-0. However, they lacked a certain amount of creativity from a middle pairing made up of Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi. A solution can soon be provided, though, with the introduction of one of the Gunners’ new signings.
The Emirates outfit did pick up the three points, but their performance was not exactly convincing from an attacking point of view. They had just two shots on target throughout the match, and actually had one less shot at goal than their opponents.
Xhaka and Guendouzi did not have poor games, but neither are known for their intricate creativity. The latter is a defensive midfielder and rarely records goals or assists, and it is not much different with Xhaka. With those two in the middle, the Gunners lack a player who can provide a bit of spark from a deep-lying position.
Step forward Dani Ceballos. The 23-year-old joined on loan from Real Madrid this summer, and is a natural midfielder. He was not a regular starter for the 13-time Champions League/European Cup winners last season, so it is best to look at how he performed at the the U21 European Championships which took place in June.
He recorded an pass success rate of 90.1%, as well as an average of 2.8 key passes per game and along with two goals he also provided two assists. In comparison, Xhaka and Guendouzi had 1.9 key passes per game between them during the last Premier League campaign, as well as two assists combined. It was a similar story with their pass success rate – they averaged 86.5%.
Whilst Ceballos’ stats are over a shorter period of time and in a tournament of lesser overall quality, he has shown that he can be the creative heartbeat of a side. Arsenal will be a much more dangerous proposition with the Spain international in their starting line-up this weekend against Burnley.