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Bad news for Ozil? How Arsenal will line up with Ceballos

15:00 IST 25/07/2019
Dani Ceballos Mesut Ozil
The Real Madrid attacking midfielder has completed a loan move to the Emirates Stadium - so how will manager Unai Emery utilise the Spain star?

It has been a frustrating transfer window so far for Arsenal, but those frustrations will soon be eased with two new arrivals set to come through the door at the Emirates.

Fans will have to wait a little longer to see one of them, William Saliba, in action - as the 18-year-old defender will immediately return to Saint-Etienne upon completion of his £27 million move, spending the coming season there on loan.

But the other arrival supporters will be able to enjoy from the off. And for anyone who watched this summer's European Under 21 Championship and saw how Dani Ceballos performed during Spain’s march to the title, then they will know that ‘enjoy’ is the correct turn of phrase.

Ceballos is an exciting young talent, arguably one of the finest in football right now, but he needs to play regularly after a couple of frustrating seasons with Real Madrid.

He was hailed as the next big thing when he made his £14.75 million move to the Bernabeu from Real Betis in 2017, having just walked away with the Golden Player award at the 2017 European Under-21 Championship.

A delighted Florentino Perez predicted, “Dani will be a pillar of the club for the future.

"Through his humility, hard work and sheer talent, he was recently named best player at the Euro Under-21 Championship.

"Now the real challenge starts, and you must succeed at this club for you, your family and for our fans all around the world, who are already fully convinced of your talents. The fans will back you to the hilt."

But Ceballos has struggled to force his way into the starting XI at Madrid, with Zinedine Zidane unconvinced at the time of the playmaker’s arrival that he was a necessary addition to his squad.

He made just four La Liga starts in what he describes as a “lost” first season, but things started to look up when Zidane left in the summer of 2018.

The 22-year-old started to play far more regularly under Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari, only for Zidane’s return in March to leave him looking in from the outside once again.

A move away has looked like Ceballos’ only option for some time - and now t hat move has been completed .

It had looked like the Spaniard would be heading for Spurs, but an intervention from Unai Emery has seen him instead agree to spend the coming season on loan at Arsenal.

It’s a deal Arsenal have identified as low-risk, with the north London club having to pay a relatively low loan fee as well as the player’s £3m a year wages to bring him to the Premier League.

With transfer funds limited at the Emirates, the move has been seen as a no brainer, even though it does not include any sort of option to land Ceballos on a permanent basis once the loan expires.

Speaking in the United States ahead of Arsenal’s game with Madrid in Washington, Emery said: “Ceballos is a very good player, I know him from Betis at the beginning and also at Real Madrid.

“He played very well with the under-21s, they won with his national team in this competition.”

When asked where he saw Ceballos fitting in at Arsenal, he added: “He is a No.8 or No.10 player.”

Ceballos’ arrival is certainly a welcome one for Emery, who has seen the club struggle to land his key targets this summer - with negotiations for Wilfried Zaha and Keiran Tierney both currently deadlocked with Crystal Palace and Celtic, respectively.

Both players want to move to the Emirates, but Arsenal’s financial limitations caused by their mammoth wage bill and a third successive season outside of the Champions League are making talks difficult.

So with less than three weeks to go before deadline day, alternatives are being explored.

That's why wrapping up a move for Ceballos will be a big boost to Emery, who is well versed in the options the former Real Betis man will give him.

Emery has shown that he is a coach who likes to use different systems, depending on the opposition - and Ceballos fits in to a number of these.

He has starred as a No.10 before and could comfortably slot into that role at Arsenal, should Emery look to revert back to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation for the coming season.

Ceballos could sit behind the central striker, supplying the ammunition for either Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette to thrive on.

Arsenal spent the majority of the second half of last season playing a 3-4-1-2 formation, however, but again he could be the man operating behind the two central strikers.

But Ceballos is far from a player who just sits in the final third looking to play the killer pass. In fact, he is more of a box-to-box central midfielder - someone who displays a good work ethic and tends to start a bit deeper before driving forward with the ball at his feet.

So he could be more of an Aaron Ramsey replacement, someone who is better served playing in a midfield three - potentially sitting in a slightly more advanced role with Granit Xhaka and one of either Lucas Torreira or Matteo Guendouzi just behind him.

He may not provide as much of a goal threat as Ramsey - or get himself into the box with as much regularity as the Welshman - but his quality on the ball and his willingness to run with it from deep should provide plenty of space and chances for the forwards in front of him.

This all begs the question, however, of what does Emery have planned for Mesut Ozil? The German’s struggles last season were well documented and it’s no secret that Arsenal would have liked to have moved the 30-year-old on this summer.

But Ozil still has two years left on his £350,000-a-week contract and has never even entertained the thought of leaving, so he will be at the club for another season at the very least.

Ceballos will be given some time to adjust to his new surroundings by Emery. Arsenal’s head coach has shown already he wants his new signings to earn a place in the starting XI rather than just be handed one.

So it might take a few weeks, but when he is up to speed it’s tough to envisage both Ceballos and Ozil operating in the same side on a regular basis.

To get the best out of Ceballos, it looks like Emery might have to move away from playing a strict No.10 in a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-4-1-2 formation and move towards a 4-3-3. This is a system that will be far easier to implement should Arsenal manage to get a deal over the line for Zaha, or another winger, in the coming weeks.

Ozil has played out wide at times during his Arsenal career and could fill in there if needed, but it’s far from his favoured position and he often leaves the full-back with very little protection when operating in that role.

There are still plenty of question marks surrounding the make-up of Arsenal’s squad going into the new season, even at this late stage of the summer, but the arrival of the mercurial Ceballos certainly gives Emery some much needed options.

It may only prove to be a brief stay for the Real Madrid star in north London, but it promises to be a stay that is fun to watch.