Arsenal were given an almighty scare at Athens but eventually came out of the hole they dug on their own through Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s 87th-minute header. It was yet another stressful day for the Arsenal faithful, who are now accustomed to expecting any possible thing when their team plays.
Arsenal somehow dominated both legs but still ended up conceding two goals. How? Well because they are Arsenal. The Portuguese side barely created a decent chance but saw themselves leading 2-3 on aggregate with 25 minutes to go.
Arsenal needed two goals. Mikel Arteta needed patience. Arsenal faithful needed calming down.
Dani Ceballos was at the heart of the problems which led to Benfica taking the lead at Karaiskakis Stadium, home of the Greek side Olympiacos, who knocked Arsenal out of this competition at this stage last year.
After replacing Ceballos with Thomas Partey, and making a further four changes, Arsenal were able to change the course of the game. But club legend Martin Keown believes that Ceballos should not have been where he was for Benfica’s second goal.
“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,” Keown said on BT Sport (transcribed by the Metro).
“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.”
The former Arsenal defender went on to say, “He’s someone who is 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.”
On the Spaniard’s error for Benfica’s second goal on the night, Keown continued: “Well you hope he can come back from it, but I would argue as to why he’s sitting there on the edge of the box.”
These are simple problems that Mikel Arteta must address. If he does not then Arsenal must be ready to lose “season-defining” games.