Arbeloa was born in Salamanca, León, relocating with his family to Zaragoza at the age of four. He started playing football at local Real Zaragoza, joining Real Madrid's youth system at the age of 18.
Arbeloa spent three full seasons with Real Madrid Castilla, the reserve team, two of those spent in Segunda División B. In 2004–05, he contributed with 32 games and one goal – playoffs included – as they returned to Segunda División after a 14-year absence; on 16 October 2004, he made his La Liga debut with the main squad, coming on as a second-half in a 1–1 away draw against Real Betis.
On 24 July 2006, Arbeloa signed for Deportivo de La Coruña, with Real Madrid being entitled to 50% of any transfer occurring in the following three years. He said of his departure: "This is a strange situation for me; I have been playing for Real Madrid for five years, since I was 16", adding "Real always has the best players. There were eight defenders in the squad, something had to give in."
During his six-month spell with the team from Galicia, Arbeloa featured in 21 official games, 18 of his league appearances being complete.
Arbeloa playing for Liverpool in 2007
Arbeloa signed for English club Liverpool on 31 January 2007, managed by countryman Rafael Benítez. He made his Premier League debut on 10 February, replacing Jermaine Pennant for the final 15 minutes of the 1–2 away loss to Newcastle United.
Arbeloa made his first start for the Reds against FC Barcelona, in the 2006–07 edition of the UEFA Champions League. He featured as a left-back at the Camp Nou, as his stronger right foot could stop Lionel Messi who had a tendency to cut his runs towards the center of the field – his team won it 2–1 and eventually 2–2 on aggregate, with the player also featuring the full 90 minutes at Anfield.
Arbeloa scored his first goal for Liverpool against Reading, on 7 April 2007. He replaced Steve Finnan in the last minutes of the Champions League final, a 1–2 loss to A.C. Milan.
Arbeloa's squad number changed from 2 to 17 for 2007–08, due to personal preference. He cemented a first-team place in that campaign, playing 41 matches all competitions comprised in a fourth-place finish.
On 17 May 2009, in a match against West Bromwich Albion, Arbeloa was involved in an on-field clash with teammate Jamie Carragher – the two had to be separated by Daniel Agger, Xabi Alonso, Emiliano Insúa and Pepe Reina. Carragher later explained that he clashed with Arbeloa as a moment of poor defending from the latter threatened the clean sheet, further explaining "we want to keep a clean sheet and we want Pepe to have a chance of the Golden Glove for the fourth season running"; Benítez refused to comment about the incident.
Return to Real Madrid
On 29 July 2009, it was announced that Real Madrid and Liverpool had reached an agreement on the transfer of Arbeloa, for a fee of £5 million and a five-year contract.
After the departure of Míchel Salgado and Miguel Torres, Arbeloa was handed the number 2 jersey. He played the vast majority of his first season in his second stint as a left-back, netting his first goal on 13 February 2010 in a 3–0 away win against Xerez CD. His second came in the Madrid Derby on 28 March, scoring with his right foot past David de Gea in the 3–2 win over Atlético Madrid; under new manager José Mourinho, he celebrated his tenth appearance in the Champions League with his first goal in the competition, netting from outside the penalty area in a 4–0 success at AFC Ajax for the group stage.
In the 2011–12 campaign, due to Ricardo Carvalho's lengthy injury, Sergio Ramos was relocated to centre-back and Arbeloa begun appearing almost exclusively on the right side of the back four. On 1 August 2012, he extended his link to the club until June 2016.
Subsequently, Arbeloa became a fringe player. In 2015–16 he appeared in just nine matches across all competitions, two of those being in the Champions League which was won for the second time in three years; on 8 May 2016, he confirmed he would leave on 30 June.
West Ham United
On 31 August 2016, Arbeloa returned to the Premier League for the first time in seven years, signing for West Ham United for one season. He made his debut on 21 September, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1–0 home win over Accrington Stanley in the EFL Cup.
Arbeloa was released at the end of the campaign after having made just four competitive appearances, three in the league. He retired in June 2017 at the age of 34, after a professional career that spanned 15 years.