It might not feel exactly like it, but Dani Ceballos was a summer signing having ended his first loan spell at the club after the FA Cup final.
It was clear that he’d made progress under Mikel Arteta, that he’d won the faith of a manager who had questioned and challenged him last season, and by all accounts he was absolutely keen to come back to North London.
His chances of regular playing time at Real Madrid under Zinedine Zidane were slim, so he wanted to continue his development at Arsenal, believing he has made progress as a player.
Speaking to the press ahead of Spain’s Nations League clash with Granit Xhaka’s Switzerland tomorrow, he said, “People always say the first year is one of transition, but after the lockdown we saw the Dani Ceballos we all wanted, with the arrival of Mikel, we know the team improved.
“I found a position which isn’t usual for me, a bit more defensive. The Premier League takes you to the limit both physically and technically. I think I’ve improved a lot over the last six months.”
And on his decision to push for return to the Emirates, he revealed conversations with the Real Madrid CEO about how he’d made up his mind despite his parent club asking him to wait and consider it a bit longer.
“After the season I spoke to Jose Angel Sanchez and I told him I’d spoken to Mikel about staying at Arsenal, they told me to wait for a month for the team come back and take a decision, but my idea was clear to return to my club where I’d ended well with the boss’s confidence.
“You look at what’s coming next summer, the Euros and Olympics, you need an important role in your team and after the lockdown I found the role I’d been looking for in recent years with Mikel.
When a player is totally happy, personally and footballistically, you find the right position on and off the pitch. I decided to stay for another year.
“I was totally happy, and I could develop my game in a totally natural way.”
Quotes via @alexkirkland