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24th Jul 2019

What should Arsenal fans expect from Dani Ceballos?

Dani Ceballos is on the verge of signing for Arsenal on a season long loan from Real Madrid, but what should Gunners fans expect from the midfielder?

Reuben Pinder

“At Betis, he thrived when games became more of a battle.”

Arsenal have confirmed the signing of Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid on a season long loan.

The 22-year-old joined the club from Real Betis in 2017 for £14m but has struggled for game time during his time at the Santiago Bernabéu.

He has impressed when given the chance, though, and those glimpses of brilliance have convinced Arsenal he is the man they need to fill an Aaron Ramsey shaped hole in midfield.

Ceballos made headlines this summer as he led Spain to their fifth European Championship title at U21 level. This wonder strike against Italy in particular piqued a lot of football fans’ interest, and sparked a bidding way between Arsenal and their north London rivals Tottenham from which the Gunners have emerged victorious.

The midfielder will provide a combination of aggression off the ball and creativity on it that has too often been lacking in Arsenal’s midfield in recent years, according to La Liga expert Dermot Corrigan of ESPN.

“Assuming he settles well, Ceballos has the potential to become a real midfield leader for Arsenal – providing a mix of personality and creativity that maybe the Gunners have lacked,” he explained to JOE.

“I’d see him as bringing more to the team out of possession than Özil or Mkhitaryan, while being much better on the ball than Xhaka, Torreira or Guendouzi.”

In terms of playing style, Ceballos is one of many to come from the never-ending conveyor belt of silky midfielders and doesn’t shy away from the big occasion. I’m looking at you, Mesut.

“Technically he’s excellent, with a top first touch, awareness of the play and ability to pick a pass. He’s also got a substantial awareness of his own worth, having been seen by many [probably including himself] as a future star from back in his mid-teens. This means he does not feel over-awed by big stages, but also perhaps that problems arise when things don’t go his way,” Corrigan says.

His slight stature will have the Proper Football Men™ questioning whether he has the physicality to adapt to the Premier League, but Corrigan has no concerns over his compatibility with intense, physical football.

“Although Ceballos is not the biggest, he should have no problem with the physical side,” he explains.

“Especially at Betis, he seemed to thrive when games became more of a battle, even impressing Diego Simeone with how he took the fight to Atletico Madrid in one game. The issue might be more how he mentally adapts to the new country and new challenge, and also perhaps how he deals with Unai Emery’s intense style of man-management.”

Ceballos had not envisaged having to go out on loan when he joined Real Madrid, but Corrigan sees it as a move that will benefit all parties. “He was just 20 when he joined Madrid two years ago, when Barcelona were also interested, but even at that stage he was used to playing regularly having made over 100 appearances for first club Real Betis,” he says.

“Things were different given the competition for places at the Bernabeu, and coach Zinedine Zidane did not like how he reacted to being lower in the pecking order. It is clearly better for both parties now that they spend some time apart.”

As previously mentioned, Ceballos is effectively replacing Ramsey and can fulfil a variety of midfield roles.

“As Emery has said, Ceballos can play as both a number eight and a number 10. This flexibility should be useful as he can fit pretty well into any midfield set-up.

“Ideally – for Ceballos anyway – he could play behind the front two and pick out passes for Aubameyang and Lacazette ahead of him. But he also has the tenacity and athleticism to fit in alongside Xhaka, Torreira or Guendouzi in a two or three man central midfield.”