Dani Cabellos has been with the Gunners for two seasons and by now, he should be integral to Mikel Arteta’s rebuilding plans, but he’s failed to deliver on numerous occasions and only poor judgement and blind loyalty will keep him in North London beyond this campaign. Against Liverpool, Ceballos failed to offer resistance, let alone creative purpose and he was finally and thankfully hooked in the second half.
I and others thought he was fortunate to reappear after a flat, insipid, and soulless performance in the first half. He wasn’t on his own, but as a midfielder, he failed to have any sort of impact as Arsenal became overrun by a goal-hungry Liverpool that were well short of their best. Heaven forbid if they had got their normal passing game together, the game could have ended 0-8 and Klopp’s men should have been 0-3 up by half time.
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Time and time again, Liverpool pushed up and Ceballos and his colleagues looked completely lost in the process. They weren’t all terrible, Tierney, who sadly went off due to a knock, tried to bring urgency and Partey never gave up chasing shadows but the others should all be looking at themselves in the mirror. I’ll excuse Odegaard purely because he didn’t get the ball enough to do anything with it, yes, the main creative player was deprived of the opportunity to do what he does best.
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The front three were completely superfluous and hardly troubled last year’s Premier League champions. They didn’t have to break a sweat in a routine defensive display that would have been classed as a soft training ground knockabout.
Ceballos, for all his potential, was a passenger and I’m not blaming him for his performance against, rather his continuous lack of performances. The fact that he can only get a game when Xhaka is sick says it all and I suspect Arteta has realised that he isn’t the type of player he needs.
Add to the fact that he was replaced by the enthusiastic, tireless but ordinary Elneny, and you can see how little he brings to the party. As Ceballos trudged off, his face said it all, it was a mixture of anger, frustration, and the realisation that he’d failed again to make a decent contribution.
He’s not a Fekir, someone who can dig in and battle, and in that respect, neither is Odegaard, but give the Norwegian someone of that ilk in the middle with Partey and there could be fireworks. I suspect that Ceballos was once firmly in Arteta’s plans but drifted out just as quickly after the Spaniard witnessed a succession of below-average displays.
He’ll probably be a massive hit elsewhere but what exactly is he? At times, he’s neither a playmaker nor an assured defensive midfielder. He looks uncomfortable at Arsenal, perhaps at odds with his instructions and instincts and that may be why his game looks so disjointed.
Ceballos aside, there were another seven who did themselves no favours against Liverpool and Leno, once out as the most consistent player had another day to forget with a performance that looked like he had shoes on his fists instead of gloves. His evening was summed up by Salah’s embarrassing nutmeg which made him look incredibly poor, but he went some way towards redeeming himself with a fabulous stop from the striker with an instinctive reflex save.
The German needs to be more alert and sharper against all opposition because he occasionally gets caught napping or in the cloud of indecision. The performance Arsenal gave in the second half of the West Ham game wasn’t forthcoming here. We waited for the response to Arteta’s team talk but instead, got more of the same which was dispiriting.
On the 20th anniversary of David Rocastle’s death, this display was as inept as you could imagine and if Rocastle were still alive and in his prime, he would have put in a shift such as this collection have never seen. Rocastle was always spirited, invested, committed, and full of desire and ambition. You can’t teach it or buy it but you could try to imitate it which would have made this game watchable at least.