Arsenal star slammed by Martin Keown after Benfica scare – ‘Why is he even there?’

Arsenal v Benfica: Match in pictures

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Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown has questioned why Dani Ceballos is being used as a deep-lying midfielder after his performance in the second leg of the Gunners’ Europa League tie with Benfica. An 87th minute winner from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw Arsenal earn a 4-3 victory on aggregate but they were minutes away from being eliminated on away goals.

Ceballos was at fault for both of Benfica’s goals, conceding the free-kick which Diogo Goncalves scored and under-hitting a back pass to Bernd Leno which Rafa Silva latched onto to give his side the lead.

The midfielder was promptly taken off with Arsenal still needing two goals to win the tie, but a strike from Kieran Tierney and a header from Aubameyang ensured the Gunners progressed.

However, speaking to BT Sport after the game, Keown questioned whether the role Ceballos was being asked to play is the right one.

He said: “Ceballos, this late in the season, he’s a creative midfield player being asked to do his defensive duties and he’s been found wanting. And that’s got to improve.

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“A set of mistakes if you look at the tie overall, the penalty that was given away, the free-kick and then Ceballos with that inconceivable header back to his own goal. And you’ve got to learn from this.

“Because you wonder, should Ceballos be the deep-lying midfielder there anyway? Because if they’ve got a corner and everyone has gone up, why is he even there? Because we’ve seen defensively it’s not his strong suit.

“He’s someone who’s creative, who can play with the ball. So that’s going to have to be looked at.

“Of course, he was taken off straight away. I was worried when Willian came on. Twenty-six appearances but only two shots on goal.”

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Speaking in his post-match press conference, Arteta said he was “especially happy for Dani” that his side was able to score a late winner, saying: “I don’t think we would have deserved [to go out] but the reality is that we gave them two goals in the two legs.

“When you do that against any opponent and especially one with the quality of Benfica you are going to be in trouble and that’s why we were in trouble. We gave a penalty in a situation that we knew was gonna happen and today we gave a goal after our own corner.

“After that the reaction of the team, the belief and what I sensed on the pitch and how much they wanted it gave me hope.

“We changed it we tried to be more of a threat more attacking.

“I’m especially happy for Dani because he’s a player that lives this profession like it’s the most important thing in his life and when he made that mistake if that would have cost the team to be out of the competition it would have been mentally really tough.”

When asked how Ceballos was feeling when Aubameyang’s header went in, Arteta added: “No, I just mentioned what I told you guys.

“Again I’m especially happy for him because he really loves this game and he does everything in the right way to be as prepared as possible. You can see how he celebrates every single goal.

“He doesn’t have a ten-year contract at the club, he’s on loan, and still feels and defends this club in the best possible way. I think someone like him deserves good things to happen to him in football.”

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