Mikel Arteta admitted that he was ‘especially happy’ for Dani Ceballos after Arsenal pulled off a late comeback win against Benfica this evening to advance in the Europa League.
Real Madrid loanee Ceballos was substituted essentially immediately after a disastrous header gifted Rafa Silva the opportunity to score in the 61st minute, which left Arsenal facing an exit from the cup.
That will unfortunately end up as the highlight moment for the Spaniard after tonight’s match, but he also produced a reckless foul late in the first-half which left Diogo Goncalves to score a fine free-kick.
Arteta showed his real class as he also added that Ceballos ‘lives’ football like it’s the ‘most important thing in his life’, with the comeback saving the ace an ordeal that would’ve been ‘mentally tough.’
The boss continued to rave about the central midfielder’s commitment to the club, despite just being a loanee, adding he ‘does everything’ to prepare in the ‘right way’ and ‘defends the club in the best way possible’. Arteta added Ceballos is someone who ‘deserves good things’ to happen in ‘football’.
Mikel Arteta was ‘especially happy’ for Dani Ceballos after Arsenal beat Benfica, stating that the loanee ‘defends’ the club in the ‘best possible way’ in a show of real class… pic.twitter.com/9MCOPQAQgK
— CaughtOffside (@caughtoffside) February 25, 2021
Mikel Arteta mentioned his relief for Ceballos’ sake when he was questioned on how he felt in the 87th minute after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s winner, which was assisted by Bukayo Saka:
“No, I don’t think we would have deserved it (to go out). The reality is that we gave them two goals in the two legs, and when you do that against any opponent, and an opponent with the quality of Benfica, you are going to be in trouble.”
“That’s why we were in trouble. We gave away a penalty in a situation that we knew was going to happen, and then today we gave away a goal after our own corner.”
“After that, the reaction of the team, the belief and what I was sensing 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, and I’m especially happy about Dani (Ceballos) because he’s a player that lives this profession like 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.”
“That’s when you need players in the team like the ones we have with Auba (Aubameyang) and Bukayo (Saka) creating and KT scoring the goal to save him.”
“Out of a difficult situation created a really nice moment.”
Arteta later specifically discussed Ceballos, who ‘defends this club in the best possible way’:
“I just mentioned what I told you guys. 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 10 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.”
Ceballos is in his second consecutive loan spell with the Gunners from Real Madrid, with the central midfielder now being joined by Los Blancos teammate Martin Odegaard in north London.
Victory was crucial for Arsenal this evening, the Europa League once again offers them their best chance to return to the Champions League after years out due to their shaky displays in the Premier League.
The team were lucky that Ceballos’ costly mistakes didn’t cost them a spot in Europe’s secondary club competition.
It’s also a serious reminder that Arteta would be wise to avoid using the Spain international in defensive areas, which is difficult as they field two central midfielders behind a No.10 these days, with the purpose of offering more protection to a backline that have looked problematic this season.