Arsenal have confirmed that Dani Ceballos will join the Gunners on a year-long loan from Real Madrid. The 22, soon to be 23 years old, has found playing time hard to come by at Madrid. He’ll need to find a role and make it his own if he is to get minutes at the Emirates.
Ceballos made his name as a ball progressing central midfielder. His role will in the team will likely be to get the ball to Arsenal’s dangerous attacking players, like Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The big question is where he’ll be doing that from.
Arsenal played many different formations last season, but the two they played the most were the 3-4-1-2 and the 4-2-3-1. In both of these formations, Unai Emery usually played two of Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Mattéo Guendouzi in the two central midfield spots behind the number 10.
If Ceballos was to take up this role, he would immediately become the most forward-thinking of the four players. Torreira is a classic defensive midfielder that focuses on breaking up play and recycling the ball. Ceballos is more likely to be a partner than a replacement for Torreira.
Xhaka and Guendouzi will be Ceballos’ competition for minutes as a central midfielder. They all look to accomplish the same goal, progressing the ball to the final third, but they do it in different ways. Xhaka and Guendouzi prefer to utilize their ability to make long line-breaking passes. Ceballos can do that, but he can also dribble his way through to the final third. If the Spaniard can does a better job at progressing the ball than his French and Swiss counterparts, then he has every chance to take their minutes in central midfield.
The other option for Ceballos is to play as a number 10. This isn’t his natural position, but Emery does like more energetic players as his number 10s so that they can press from the front. Aaron Ramsey actually started the first game of last season, though that experiment was quickly abandoned.
Ceballos’ main competition for minutes as a number 10 would be Mesut Ozil. Ozil and Emery have struggled to work together so far and, for all of German’s qualities, he is not good at pressing. If Emery is that insistent on pressing from the front, then that could be enough for Ceballos to get some minutes as a number 10.