Martin Keown questioned Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta’s decision to play Dani Ceballos in holding midfield following the Gunners’ Europa League win over Benfica.
Two goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, including in the 87th minute, ensured Arsenal‘s progression to the last 16 on Thursday.
However, they made hard work of winning 4-3 on aggregate, with Spanish midfielder Ceballos at fault.
The Real Madrid loanee conceded the free-kick from which Pedro Goncalves put the visitors in front. What’s more, his mistimed back-pass to Bernd Leno allowed Rafa Silva to nip in and score.
Speaking to BT Sport after the second leg, Keown offered a scathing assessment of the 24-year-old.
“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,” the pundit said.
“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? 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.”
Ceballos withdrew from the game after 63 minutes, but Keown also felt uneasy about his replacement.
“Of course, he was taken off straight away. I was worried when Willian came on,” he added.
“Twenty-six appearances but only two shots on goal.”
However, Aubameyang eventually stole the show. He was helped by Bukayo Saka, whose two assists proved equally crucial.
Arteta heaps praise on Aubameyang
Aubameyang’s brace proved the perfect way to silence his recent critics.
Indeed, Jamie Redknapp remarked after the Gunners’ defeat to Manchester City last Sunday that the 31-year-old is past his best.
Arteta responded in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday and heaped further praise on the striker following his impact on Thursday.
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