By Edward Stratmann
The arrival of Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid is a fantastic acquisition as Unai Emery bolsters his squad for the new season.
Emery is well aware of Ceballos’ qualities - he saw first-hand what a talented player his countryman is during his time managing in La Liga, and especially when in charge of Sevilla, when Ceballos was dominating with fierce local rivals Real Betis.
The move also works nicely for the player himself, who's desperate for regular playing time after not getting as many minutes as he would have liked in Madrid. Now 22 and heading into the best years of his career, the dynamic midfielder doesn’t want to waste any more time on the bench.
Although he played regularly last season under Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari, once Zinedine Zidane took over the managerial reins in March, Ceballos’ minutes dropped.
He made 34 appearances for Los Merengues last term, but that included 15 as a substitute. However, the recent Euro Under-21 winner with Spain, who's also earned six caps for the senior team, still demonstrated what a gifted player he is.
Versatile and capable of operating as No 8, an offensively geared No 6 or a No 10, and familiar playing in many different formations, Ceballos should give Emery plenty of tactical flexibility.
An exciting central midfielder, Ceballos always looks to drive his team forward with his blend of technique, intelligence and confidence. So comfortable with the ball at his feet, he's equally capable breaking the lines and unlocking defences with his dribbling and passing.
Ceballos relishes running at opponents, looking to beat them 1v1 with a feint or change of pace.
Always calm and composed, there's not a lot that fazes the Spaniard. He can play around pressure, weaving out of trouble to find a teammate in a better position.
He constantly scans his surroundings to give him a picture of what's around him. This means he knows if he has room to turn, needs to move the ball on quickly or can use his first touch to take the ball away from his man.
Combining power and finesse, Ceballos’ ball carrying is a true weapon that allows him to destabilise defences and win fouls in dangerous positions.
Then there’s his passing ability. Ceballos uses his vision to pick out teammates with through-balls, raking diagonal switches of play, lofted through balls in behind, slick passes into space and measured crosses and cutbacks.
Ceballos is exceptional in tight spaces too, using crafty back-heels, flicks-ons and one-twos to help break down deep-sitting defences.
Ceballos can sometimes turn the ball over cheaply by trying to overdo it with an expansive piece of dribbling, but more often than not he gets it right.
At his best when given freedom to move into unoccupied zones, Ceballos’ movement sees him exploit areas all over the attacking third of the pitch. Whether situating himself in between the lines of the opposition's midfield and defence, dropping deep to support build-up, drifting wider or exploring the half-spaces, he's a real handful to keep tabs on.
Getting on the ball in those half-spaces gives Ceballos the opportunity to receive possession in a less congested area of the pitch and with a whole view of the pitch, so he can enjoy extra time and space to make his decisions.
Ceballos' penetrative runs in behind is another weapon of his. While not as strong as Aaron Ramsey in this regard, he still gives defenders dilemmas and is often untracked when arriving in the box.
Other aspects of Ceballos’ game that warrant a mention are his set-piece taking ability and how he exploits the blindside of his trackers to offer himself as an option while not being noticed.
On the defensive side of Ceballos’ game, there's a lot to like. Full of intensity with his pressing, Ceballos will pounce on the ball carrier, looking to force a turnover so his team can attack from an advanced area.
By checking over his shoulder when harrying, Ceballos gauges how best to angle his pressing.
Throwing himself into his defensive duties with snap and bite, Ceballos will be a real asset for Emery. That said, Arsenal’s new No 8 can be a touch overzealous in his attempts to regain possession and commit some sloppy fouls.
The numbers from Ceballos’ last four seasons underline what an all-round midfielder Arsenal have signed.
He made 57.27 passes per game at 88.6% accuracy, 2.59 accurate long balls per game, 3.22 dribbles per game, 2.01 progressive runs per game, 3.25 fouls suffered per game, 1.24 touches inside the box per game, 1.27 shot assists and 8.96 passes into the final third per game at 82.9%.
On the defensive side, Ceballos made 3.61 interceptions per game, 2.4 ball recoveries per game and 1.6 tackles per game.
Ceballos can't wait to prove himself in England and, given his myriad qualities, he looks very capable of making his mark on the Premier League.
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