Mikel Arteta reveals the red card warning he gave Dani Ceballos vs Villarreal
Mikel Arteta revealed he was intending to substitute Dani Ceballos moments before the red card offence which put Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for the Europa League final in serious jeopardy last night.
The Gunners were already trailing 2-0 following a disastrous first-half performance in Villarreal, before hot-headed Spain international midfielder Ceballos was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
The 24-year-old, currently on loan from Real Madrid, was cautioned in the first period for cynically hauling down Juan Foyth and could have been dismissed shortly after the re-start for another foul on Manuel Triguero.
Arsenal fans were surprised Arteta had kept Ceballos on the field, predicting the worst, and those fears were duly realised when the former Real Betis star was handed a second yellow card for treading on Dani Parejo’s foot shortly before the hour mark.
Arteta insisted he was planning to bring Ceballos off but was unable to co-ordinate the substitution before disaster struck.
He said: ‘I haven’t seen the action again. We talked at half-time to say that we had to be very careful, there was a tackle very early and I was going to take him off but by the time that Gabi was ready to come on, that action happened and he was out.’
Ironically, Arsenal fared better with 10 men and hauled themselves back into the tie, albeit in fortuitous circumstances, when Nicolas Pepe scored from the penalty spot after a dubious foul on Bukayo Saka was penalised.
‘It changes completely the tie obviously, and it makes a huge difference and we know that we have to be better than we were for 95 minutes,’ said Arteta afterwards. ‘If we don’t do that then we won’t have the chance to be in the final.
‘Well, comparing how it (the mood) was at half time, it’s very different! But I said to them we have an opportunity, it’s a big challenge that we have ahead of us, but we have the opportunity to make it, but it has to be now.
‘In the return leg it’s going to be too late, we have to change it right now. If we’re able to do that, we’re going to get here in a completely different position.
‘We still had another incident which was the red card and playing with 10 men against this team, and the team went to a different level again and we got the goal.’