If there is an analogy that I think has best summed up Arsenal’s season so far, it is the iconic image of Charlie Brown being duped by Lucy into attempting to kick a football, only to be sent flying haplessly into the air when she inevitably pulls the football back at the last second. Since an August that feels so long ago, Arsenal fans have gotten their hopes up time and time again, only to have their hopes dashed by a late equalizer or poor performance.
No player has epitomized that analogy more than Dani Ceballos. When Unai Emery brought in the Real Madrid misfit, fans reacted as though we had pulled a fast on on Los Blancos. Here was a young, talented Spanish midfielder whose highlight reels displayed a dazzling dribbler with a wicked long shot who seemed the ideal player to slot into the spot vacated by Emery’s exile of Mesut Ozil. Ceballos’ debut against Burnley threw a 55 gallon drum of jet fuel onto the fire, and Arsenal had, so fans thought, finally had their dynamic attacking midfielder.
In the five months since, Ceballos has failed to replicate that performance by a wide margin, featuring sparingly for the Gunners. Now it appears that the once-promising loan could be coming to an abrupt end, if reports are to be believed:
The midfielder reportedly wants to return to La Liga in an attempt to force his way into Spain's Euro 2020 squad...— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 23, 2020
While nowhere near as fruitless as the head-scratching Denis Suarez loan, Ceballos has been out of favor since Mikel Arteta took over for Emery in December, having not featured for the Gunners since their Europa League draw against Vitoria on November 6th. To be fair, he has had his share of injuries, most notably the hamstring injury suffered in the same November match, but he has fully recovered, having taken part in full training since the beginning of the calendar year.
But since recovering from his injury, he has been relegated to unused substitute by Arteta for four of Arsenal’s last five matches across all competitions. Two of those matches featured red cards for the Gunners, which certainly changes the substitution process for the team, but he has remained on the bench for even those matches that the Gunners did not find themselves having to play a man down.
It had been made apparent by Ceballos that one of the main reasons for the loan was to earn a spot on Spain’s roster for the upcoming European Championship. Now it seems that he may believe that his best chance to make an impression on the Spanish national team management lies elsewhere.
Arsenal entered the winter transfer window with glaring needs, but could also find themselves short another midfielder by the end of it. With only eight days remaining in the window, Arsenal may have seen the last of Dani Ceballos at the Emirates.
But hey - we’ll always have that Burnley match.