With two tackles and one turn, Dani Ceballos personified Arteta’s Arsenal
Arsenal were far from their best in their 2-1 win over West Ham on Saturday – but in the space of just five seconds, Dani Ceballos summed up why this Gunners team feels different.
After opening their Premier League campaign with a 3-0 win at Fulham, it looked like Arsenal might enjoy another comfortable afternoon when Alexandre Lacazette deservedly headed them in front after 25 minutes on Saturday.
However, West Ham drew level through Michail Antonio just before half-time and came close to taking the lead in the second half before Eddie Nketiah tapped in five minutes from the end to make it six points out of six for Arteta’s men.
By the Spaniard’s own admission, it was not a great performance. But a win is a win.
“Probably a few months ago we would have drawn or lost that game and today we win it, ” Arteta said after the game. “In the end you have to find a way because there will be games like this through the season.”
It’s the sort of thing every manager says after a scrappy win, but with Arteta it feels meaningful. Both as a player and now as a manager, he’s a man who understands the old adage that you need to earn the right to play. Win the battle, then win the game.
So after watching his players allow West Ham back into the game at the end of the first half, it’s probably safe to assume Arteta had some strong words in the dressing room. Some of them may well have been directed squarely at Ceballos, who didn’t have a great first 45 minutes.
Even if not, in just one short passage of play, it was clear he had taken his fellow countryman’s message on board.
A 50-50 with Pablo Fornals, leading with his studs: won. A 40-60 with Jarrod Bowen, who was running on to the ball and favourite to get it: won. Then immediately up to his feet to beat Fornals to it again, turn on a sixpence then lay it off to Willian to get the attack going.
It come to nothing, ultimately, but that kind of battling is contagious. When you see your team-mate working that hard to win the battle, you want to step up to match him. Win the battle, then win the game.
There were plenty of moments in the game when you could see why Arsenal could do with both a new destroyer, Thomas Partey, and creator, Houssem Aouar, in their team, but it doesn’t mean the current midfielders can idly wait for that help in the meantime.
Just find a way to win. With the assist for Nketiah’s clincher and a brilliant last-ditch tackle in the box to save the points, Ceballos certainly did that.