Dani Ceballos getting 4 times more playing time at Arsenal than with Real Madrid
In the season and a half he spent under Zidane, Ceballos only played 16% of the total possible playing time; Emery has used him in 57% of Arsenal's games.
Dani Ceballos openly spoke today about the reason why he decided to leave Real Madrid over the summer. "It was clear in my mind from the first moment - I had to leave, get back playing and enjoying my football again because in the two previous years, I hadn't been able to do that. I made the right choice going to Arsenal. I'm really happy there", Ceballos told reporters in today's press conference in Las Rozas where he is on duty with Spain. The figures show he was right to swap Madrid for London, where he is getting all of the opportunities he was denied by Zidane - now, he is playing four times more than he did at Real Madrid. Unai Emery has used Ceballos in all 11 of Arsenal's games so far this season - Ceballos has featured in the starting Xi or come off the bench and has played 57% of the total playing time (566 minutes out of a possible 990). "The boss is showing a lot of faith in me and it's important to have that. I hope to repay him out on the pitch by playing well", explained the midfielder who to date has a goal and two assists with the Gunners. It's a world away from the distant relationship he had with Zidane. When asked whether he thought his return to Madrid would depend on whether Zidane was still at the club, he replied: "Who knows? It's hypothesis and nothing more than that. He left the club after winning the Champions League three times so it's impossible for me to say what will happen”. Under Zidane at Madrid, Ceballos played just 16% of the total playing time (1,077 minutes out of a possible 6,570) in a season and a half. Ceballos only missed four games due to injury and scored three goals for Madrid…
Ceballos featured four times in the starting XI in 2017/18
Ceballos signed for Madrid for 16.5 million euros in 2017 on the back of his excellent performances at the U21 Euros in Poland where he was named Player of the Tournament. Zidane handed him his first start in the Week 6 game against Alavés at Mendizorroza on 23 September - Ceballos scored a first half-brace to ensure Madrid went home with all three points. Before that game he'd played just five minutes - coming on as a late sub against Real Sociedad the previous weekend - a situation he returned to. Ceballos made just one start during the remainder of the year (against Eibar in Week 9) and made a handful of brief appearances as a substitute until he figured again in the starting line-up the following April, against Leganés.
With Luka Modric and Toni Kroos holding down two of the midfield positions and Mateo Kovacic favoured more by Zidane, there was no place for Ceballos. In total, he ended playing just 17.2% of the total minutes played by the team that season (899 minutes from a possible 5,220). One particularly humiliating experience was when Zidane brought him on to replace Kovacic with just 28 seconds left on the watch away at Leganés in Week 16… "I asked him why I wasn't playing because I couldn't understand it. He told me that there were players in front of me. But there was a moment during that season when both Kroos and Modric were out injured and he changed the system to field other players. That was a bit hard to take", Ceballos recalled back on 6 September.
New start under Lopetegui
He was handed a new lease of life when Julen Lopetegui took the reins at the start of last season and again under his successor, Santiago Solari, racking up 1,744 minutes of playing time out of a possible 4,170 (42%) but when Zizou returned towards the end of the campaign he was left out in the cold once again. Ceballos featured in just 17% of the team's on-field minutes which prompted him to reconsider his future and decide that it lay away from Madrid. Another year spent languishing on the bench would be too much to stomach and would also hamper his chances of being called up by Spain for next year's Euros. In July, he decided to accept Emery's offer to join Arsenal on a one-year loan deal. "Emery believed in me and that was what convinced me that Arsenal was the right place for me. He knows me", the midfielder explained on the day he was unveiled by the Gunners. Now Ceballos is back getting regular playing time, enjoying his football and that has ensured a recall by Spain - all of which bodes well for his chances of being in contention when the list is drawn up for next summer's Euros...
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