Monthly Archives: January 2020

Ceballos: Thoughts on his Disappointing Loan Spell


Dani Ceballos arrived on loan from Real Madrid this summer and it came with some good buzz and fanfare. Arsenal fans were aware of his technical abilities and saw him excel in his national colors in the the Under-21s European Championships, and he looked like a decent replacement for Aaron Ramsey. The fans will always love Rambo for all he did for the club in his distinguished years of service, and in Ceballos, he offered the fans a chance to get a glimpse of his ability while donning the favored Number 8 jersey.

Ceballos had a decent debut on the opening fixture against Newcastle, showing off his silky passing skills and technical ability on the ball. However, his home debut against Burnley, which turned out to be his finest performance in Arsenal colors, was exemplary, as he covered every blade of grass for his new side, while creating two assists to his teammates as the Gunners ran out as 2-1 winners. Arsenal fans expected more from Ceballos but for some reason, Unai Emery did not deem it fit to start with the Spaniard, preferring his favored son, Matteo Guendouzi, alongside the then club captain, Granit Xhaka, in central midfield. 

Ceballos struggled to gain any consistent form and had a few fitness issues but he managed to put the icing on the cake when Arsenal thumped Standard Liege in the Europa League group stage fixture. After a couple of international fixtures with Spain, Ceballos got a runout on the side playing all 90 minutes in the disappointing draws with Crystal Palace and Wolves, before suffering a hamstring injury in the Europa League game against Victoria Guimaraes in early November. This turned out to be Ceballos’ last appearance for the club, before he gained full fitness in late December 2019.

Early in the month, I published an article on the players with expiring contracts, providing feedback on whether the club should sell, renew or release. Here was the final take on Ceballos,

We still have five months left in the campaign and the fans expect him to contribute to the cause but he has been an underwhelming signing thus far.

Which is why its surprising with the Metro reporting that Ceballos requested for his loan to be cut short, in his bid to find where he will play competitive football with Euro 2020 in sight. This is compounded with the cryptic Instagram message he sent to Hector Bellerin, stating how he would miss his left-footed volley against Chelsea and he wishes him the best. 

Since Mikel Arteta arrived at the club in late December 2019, Ceballos has not played under his compatriot but with Arsenal still in the Europa League and FA Cup, the expectation is there for the midfield maestro to get a couple of games to contribute to the side. So the idea of him trying to leave, especially when Arteta confirmed that there will be no new signings in January (yes, we are stuck with Mustafi) will make the team lightweight in the middle. We know Joe Willock and Guendouzi can deputize for the starting duo of Xhaka and Lucas Torreira, but Mesut Ozil needs some cover as well. In this scenario, Willock can push up to feature as the #10 while Ceballos can play alongside Guendouzi, as confirmed by Arteta himself,

“I like him (Ceballos) more when he’s close to the box rather than coming deep to receive the ball.  Defensively he can play in a two, rather than as a number 10. I don’t really see him as an isolated number 10 playing with two holding midfielder.

“He’s a very creative player, one who can cause problems in the final third, he always wants the ball, he had big personality to play so I like him.”

The fact that he has not featured as much as he would have hoped must have taken its toll on his decision making, but Arsenal as a club is obligated to stick with him till the end of the season. We will monitor the situation closely to see how both parties react as we edge closer to the end of the transfer window, so we might expect some decisions from the Arsenal hierarchy in the coming days.

Ceballos has had a disappointing loan spell from a personal perspective, but it doesn’t need to have a disappointing ending.


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Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal: 10-Man Gunners Salvage Draw at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea Arsenal

Martinelli breezing past Kante

Match Report Match Highlights Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal

Goal Scorers: Chelsea (Jorginho 28′ pen, Azpilicueta 84′), Arsenal (Martinelli 64′, Bellerin 87′)

Arsenal XI (Subs) (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, D. Luiz, Mustafi, Saka; Xhaka, Torreira; Martinelli, Ozil, Pepe; Lacazette

With the games coming thick and fast, there was no time to sulk over the draw against Sheffield United last weekend, as the Gunners arrived at Stamford Bridge, 10 points behind the inconsistent Chelsea. Both teams were in a poor vein of form and someone joked that it was the kind of game that both of them could actually lose.

There was some concern around the inclusion of Shkodran Mustafi in the starting lineup for the second league match in a row, because with Mustafi, you would always expect a calamity as he is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode, and we got just that when the German defender gifted the ball to Tammy Abraham, putting his team on the lurch. David Luiz, that was jeered by the home crowd all game long, tried to cover his defense partner’s mess but a late tackle on the Chelsea forward that earned him his marching orders.

Jorginho stepped up and dispatched the penalty aplomb. 

As you’d expect from a team with a man down, Arsenal was on the back foot with Chelsea on the ascendancy but it’s worth noting that Granit Xhaka dropped deep as an auxiliary center back and became a colossus in defense. Against the run of play, Arsenal grabbed the equalizer when Gabriel Martinelli latched onto Mustafi’s headed clearance from a corner kick, made a 67-yard dash that coincided with a hilarious slip from N’Golo Kante before coming clean on goal and side footing the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Chelsea goal.

The game was delicately poised with all three points there for the taking, Chelsea must have thought that they had done enough for a victory when Cesar Azpilicueta guided the ball home from point blank range with all the Arsenal defenders ball watching, but Hector Bellerin salvaged a point for the away side when he showed great determination to swing a hopeful left footed effort that somehow found its way past Kepa. The away team didn’t care about the nature of the goal, but snapping a draw from the jaws of defeat when you’re 10 men down is very commendable.

Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta, spoke about the spirit and commitment from his team with their backs against the wall. Equalizing twice in an away ground with a deficit is no mean feat, and I am proud of the lads for the performance they put up.

All focus will be moved to the Bournemouth game in the FA Cup, as the Gunners will feature without their most improved defender, David Luiz, following his red card. No thanks to Mustafi.


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Martinelli: A Shining Light in a Dark Campaign

Image result for martinelli goal sheffield

Martinelli celebrates goal

Gabriel Martinelli joined Arsenal from Brazilian fourth tier outfit, Ituano, for a reported £6m and to be honest, the fans did not expect much from him. He is a 18-year-old player that was well sought after by several clubs, but Edu Gaspar’s influence played a role in getting him to North London. 

He was afforded just six minutes of playing time in his club debut at St. James’ Park in Newcastle, but he earned the plaudits after bagging a brace in his home debut against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup. Martinelli followed that superb performance with yet another brace in the 4-0 drubbing of Standard Liege in the Europa League which made the fans pay a closer look to the mercurial talent at their disposal. The way he scored his goals showed his bravery and sublime South American technique, and you could see some Alexis Sanchez (of old of course, not this obese money bag at Inter) in him.

His purple patch in October 2019 continued with a goal in the home victory against Vitoria Guimaraes and another brace in that comedic topsy turvy 5-5 goal glut against an understrength Liverpool side. Martinelli moved his scoring feats from the Carabao Cup and Europa League to the Premier League, when he side footed the equalizer in Freddie Ljungberg’s resurgent win against West Ham and this was followed up with Arsenal’s solitary goal in the disappointing draw with Sheffield United last weekend. 

Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta, was full of praise for his young starlet in his post-match interview,

He’s an 18-year-old kid with all the enthusiasm but as well, he’s so brave to make decisions, to threaten the opponent every time. He’s all the time in the middle of the goal, waiting for an opportunity to come. The fact he hasn’t played 90 minutes for a while – since his injury – but is still in the way he went about every single action is impressive.

Arteta isn’t the only one that has ran out of superlatives for Martinelli, with the club captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, taking to twitter to state that he’s going to be a superstar. To feel the impact of Martinelli this season, his stats have been compared with the club’s leading attackers.

Aubameyang 16 1 26 24 2 2.5
Martinelli 9 2 20 8 12 1.3
Lacazette 6 2 20 16 4 2.2
Pepe 5 3 25 15 10 1.8

*SPG = Shots Per Game

As expected, Aubameyang leads all the stats due to his sheer importance to the side as well as the fact that he delivers, but Martinelli has been outstanding with the chances he was afforded in the first team. You would normally see him feature in the Europa League and Carabao Cup but he has made his mark in both competitions, scoring regularly in his team’s bid to progress. With Aubameyang out of the side, the manager needed other players to step up and to see him score that goal against Sheffield was a pleasurable sight.

Martinelli is always striving to make something work and when he has the ball, he is purposeful with it. This gives his teammates confidence to always find him, because he has the ability to offer much on the final third.

Martinelli has staked his place for a first team berth and he will be odds on to start against Chelsea, as the Gunners line themselves up for a revenge mission tomorrow. I would also expect to see Martinelli in the starting lineup when Arsenal takes on struggling Bournemouth in the fourth round of the FA Cup this weekend.

Martinelli will certainly see his debut in England as a success, as he’s closing in on double figures for goals this season.

He has certainly been a shining light in a dark campaign for his side.


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