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Dani Ceballos hails Liverpool as the best he's ever seen and tips Unai Emery for Arsenal success

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‘They suck the air out of you, no-one presses better’: Dani Ceballos hails Liverpool as the best he’s ever seen as he tips Unai Emery to do a Jurgen Klopp and have Arsenal ‘competing for everything’

  • Dani Ceballos reveals Arsenal’s defeat by Liverpool ‘had quite an impact on him’
  • The midfielder says he has already played better for Arsenal than Real Madrid 
  • Ceballos revealed Unai Emery called him and convinced him to join Arsenal
  • The 23-year-old believes Alexandre Lacazette is the best player at Arsenal  

It’s 32 degrees in the shade at Spain‘s training camp just outside Madrid but there is no sluggishness on display from Dani Ceballos.

When the sprinklers are turned on right in front of the improvised media area he is the first to dart to safety, even having time to pick up a reporter’s phone saving it from a soaking.

It’s been a good international break for Arsenal‘s new livewire midfield loanee. He set up both Spain goals in a 2-1 win over Romania and is now very much first-choice for his country – no wonder Zinedine Zidane is being asked why he allowed him to leave Real Madrid this summer.

Sportsmail visited Dani Ceballos in Madrid to discuss his start to life in the Premier League

Sportsmail visited Dani Ceballos in Madrid to discuss his start to life in the Premier League

Ceballos revealed he is 'loving the city, loving the Premier League and loving Arsenal'

Ceballos revealed he is 'loving the city, loving the Premier League and loving Arsenal'

Ceballos revealed he is ‘loving the city, loving the Premier League and loving Arsenal’

Ceballos told Sportsmail's Pete Jenson he's already playing better for Arsenal than Real Madrid

Ceballos told Sportsmail's Pete Jenson he's already playing better for Arsenal than Real Madrid

Ceballos told Sportsmail’s Pete Jenson he’s already playing better for Arsenal than Real Madrid

Ceballos says he is happy with the change. Supporters sang his name on his debut, that doesn’t happen at the Bernabeu.

‘To get that was surprising for me,’ he says. ‘It was my first game at home and it was as if I had been there for 10 years.

‘I am really keen to show what I can do. I’m loving the city, I’m loving the Premier League and I’m loving Arsenal. It’s much easier for a player to adapt in England because of the way the supporters make you feel.’

He is also cautious. He is only four games in and the third of those matches, against Liverpool, was a reminder of how high the bar has been set in this Premier League.

Ceballos says Liverpool's pressing game 'sucks the life out of you' and shocked him at Anfield

Ceballos says Liverpool's pressing game 'sucks the life out of you' and shocked him at Anfield

Ceballos says Liverpool’s pressing game ‘sucks the life out of you’ and shocked him at Anfield

The 23-year-old has hailed Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool as the best team he has ever faced

The 23-year-old has hailed Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool as the best team he has ever faced

The 23-year-old has hailed Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool as the best team he has ever faced

Ceballos says Arsenal's 3-1 defeat by Liverpool last month 'had quite an impact' on him

Ceballos says Arsenal's 3-1 defeat by Liverpool last month 'had quite an impact' on him

Ceballos says Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat by Liverpool last month ‘had quite an impact’ on him 

‘I had never seen anything like it,’ he says pausing to find the words to best do justice to the football hurricane that blew over Arsenal that day.

‘I’ve not seen up until now a team that plays better, that presses better. That game had quite an impact on me.

‘They suck the air out of you. You spend so much time defending and when you want to catch your breath and get on the ball for a bit, they’ve taken it from you again.

‘I think Jurgen [Klopp] now has the team he first had in mind when he started four years ago.’

Ceballos believes Emery will have the same effect on Arsenal if he’s given time.

Recalling how Klopp’s first season at Anfield ended in a Europa League final that he lost to Emery’s Sevilla, he says: ‘The difference is that when Unai comes into Arsenal they had been on a less positive run for three or four years.

‘In his first season Arsenal finish just a point short of the Champions League and are just a small step from winning the Europa League. His arrival has been really positive for the club and will be positive in the long term. In a few years Arsenal can be one of the top 10 sides in the world able to compete for everything.’

The forward line already promises much.

‘You can compare [Pierre Emerick] Aubameyang to the style of Cristiano [Ronaldo] when he was at Madrid in the sense that he plays close to the goal and lives for scoring,’ Ceballos says.

‘Pepe is very direct, and Lacazette is the best player in the team: he understands the game perfectly.’

The midfielder has backed Unai Emery to be a success at Arsenal if he's given time to build

The midfielder has backed Unai Emery to be a success at Arsenal if he's given time to build

The midfielder has backed Unai Emery to be a success at Arsenal if he’s given time to build

Ceballos has compared Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's playing style to Cristiano Ronaldo

Ceballos has compared Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's playing style to Cristiano Ronaldo

Ceballos has compared Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s playing style to Cristiano Ronaldo 

The Arsenal loanee hailed Alexandre Lacazette's brain and says he's the best player at Arsenal

The Arsenal loanee hailed Alexandre Lacazette's brain and says he's the best player at Arsenal

The Arsenal loanee hailed Alexandre Lacazette’s brain and says he’s the best player at Arsenal

The big question is how Ceballos fits in. Against Tottenham Emery felt he couldn’t play his front three and his most attacking midfielder. The Spaniard is philosophical about starting his first North London derby on the bench.

‘It must be a headache,’ he says of Emery’s selection dilemma. ‘The manager has to fit things together to get the best from the team. We are a big squad and everyone is going to be important.’

To play behind Pepe, Aubameyang and Lacazette, Ceballos might need a discipline he has sometimes struggled to find. His appraisal of his own style is brutally honest.

‘There are coaches that like it and coaches that don’t,’ he says. ‘I know I need to be able to identify the moments in a game when it’s right to be the player who does something different and the moments when I have to be the player who holds his position.

‘I try to get at the opposition and make the difference. It is true though that sometimes the desire to be near the ball gets the better of me and I can lose my position. But I am young and I can improve.’

Ceballos says he has to be 'self-critical' of his time at Real Madrid and didn't fulifll his potential

Ceballos says he has to be 'self-critical' of his time at Real Madrid and didn't fulifll his potential

Ceballos says he has to be ‘self-critical’ of his time at Real Madrid and didn’t fulifll his potential

The 23-year-old says his creative playing style is a reflection of his personality as a person

The 23-year-old says his creative playing style is a reflection of his personality as a person

The 23-year-old says his creative playing style is a reflection of his personality as a person

Some coaches have more patience for that than others. Zidane did not seem interested.

‘I have to be self-critical,’ Ceballos says. ‘The two good games that I have played so far for Arsenal, I never played that well in two years at Real Madrid.’

Can Emery succeed where Zidane failed? ‘Unai wants me to show my personality on the pitch and I feel the responsibility this season of taking the reins, of wanting the ball in difficult moments of games, of not hiding. Really good players take that step forward when it matters.’

Personality is something Ceballos has never been short of both on and off the pitch. As a teenager when he got a famous sports brand’s trademark swoosh shaved into the side of his head he earned the nickname ‘Dani Nike’. How are the haircuts at Arsenal?

‘Aubameyang is always trying to do something unusual with his hair. He likes to be an extrovert but that is a good thing because he is our star player.’

He believes confidence is key to the success of players like Aubameyang and Paul Pogba

He believes confidence is key to the success of players like Aubameyang and Paul Pogba

He believes confidence is key to the success of players like Aubameyang and Paul Pogba

This is an important point for Ceballos. Personality matters. It’s important to stamp it down on the pitch and no one should be chastised for having some of it off the pitch either.

‘[Paul] Pogba is an example of that,’ he says, defending the midfielder he will face later this month. ‘He might dress a certain way or always be laughing and joking but then you watch him before the World Cup final for France and he is the guy driving the team forward, motivating everyone.’

There is a sense that Ceballos wants to stand up to be counted this season. That ought to be easier under Emery than Zidane.

‘He called me and told me to come to Arsenal,’ Ceballos says. ‘He told me I was going to have a prominent role and that I was going to like his idea of playing. When you have the confidence of the coach that is about 60 per cent of the battle. Knowing that if you make a mistake you have the backing of your manager, for me, and for a lot of players, that’s fundamental.’

He is not the first from Seville to try to make it at Arsenal. Jose Antonio Reyes made the move in 2004, and from the same town, Utrera.

‘It’s a small place with about 55,000 inhabitants and although it produces a lot of players few have gone on to play at the top; it’s maybe just Jose and me and to have that similar career path is strange.

‘I know he arrived with lots of expectation and he adapted very quickly. It’s also true that he had a great team around him. But he was a special player and had a spectacular first season.’

Ceballos played a key role as Spain lifted the Under 21 European Championship this summer

Ceballos played a key role as Spain lifted the Under 21 European Championship this summer

Ceballos played a key role as Spain lifted the Under 21 European Championship this summer

Reyes missed sunny southern Spain too much to stay long but it feels as though Ceballos has come with a different outlook.

‘I know it gets cold. I’ve been warned,’ he says as the sun continues to beat down on pitch one at Spain’s Las Rozas training ground. ‘But I don’t care if it’s raining or snowing as long as I’m playing. I really like the way they love football in England. The away support, the playing every three days over Christmas to packed stadiums. It’s all a great experience for me.’

He admits to having been asked to take a couple of Spanish hams back for his family in England but says he has no problem with English cuisine – another one of the cliché complaints from some Spanish players.

And he is studying the language and even has English television installed at home, not the satellite Spanish channels, so as to immerse himself fully.

‘I want to learn English, that’s why I’m studying two or three hours a day. I think in three months I will be able to hold a normal conversation with my team-mates and understand everything,’ he says.

He might want to check those Spanish channels occasionally. If only to hear how in Madrid they are already starting to question the sense in allowing Arsenal to take him this season.

 



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Crystal Palace hero Wilfried Zaha opens up on failed Arsenal and Everton summer transfers

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Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha has said that he will always love the club despite wanting to leave in the summer.

Arsenal wanted to sign Zaha but Palace wanted in excess of £70million for him, something which the Gunners could not afford in full.

Once that move fell through, Everton then came in for the Ivorian’s signature.

But Palace wouldn’t listen to their offers either – one of which was said to be £50m plus Cenk Tosun and James McCarthy.

Zaha’s brother Judicael spoke publicly about his sibling’s desire to leave Palace for Arsenal – who he supported as a child.

The former Manchester United winger ended up staying with Palace – the club he professes to love regardless of his summer wishes.

“To be honest what happened in the summer happened,” he told Palace fan site HLTCO.

“Obviously there were things that I was told that did not happen and I was not happy about it.

“I’m still a Palace player and I’m still at Palace and want to do well for the club.

“It’s an honour to play for Palace in the Premier League

“I love Crystal Palace. I feel like the fans and everything in the stadium is different to every club, it is a proper family club. Crystal Palace fans care about your well being.

“I will always love Crystal Palace – whatever happens.

“Even years back when I went to Manchester United I followed everything that happened at Palace. It will not end tomorrow if I ever move.

“I’ve been at Palace since I was eight. Palace is a special place.”

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Kieran Tierney close to Arsenal debut as Unai Emery provides injury update on three stars

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Arsenal manager Unai Emery has offered updates on the fitness of defensive trio Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney.

The Gunners take on Aston Villa at the Emirates tomorrow (4.30pm) looking to respond to their disappointment against Watford a week ago.

Arsenal squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Vicarage Road in their second successive draw, both by the same score-line.

A much-changed side recovered to beat Eintracht Frankfurt in their opening Europa League group stage game on Thursday but now getting back on track domestically is their chief ambition.

Their mid-week clean sheet will however have been more than welcome for Emery, whose side have once again struggled defensively this season.

David Luiz, signed from Chelsea for £8million in the summer, gave away a second penalty in just three games at Watford and Arsenal have already leaked eight goals in five league matches.

Such are their problems at the back that Arsenal fans are clamouring for the returns of several stars, with Holding and Bellerin long-term absentees while another summer addition – left-back Tierney – has yet to make his debut due to fitness issues.

But the Spanish boss has revealed the trio are all increasingly closer to 100 per cent, with former Celtic star Tierney closing in on his first appearance after moving south of the border for £25m.

Emery said: ”[Holding] is ready to play. We are playing on Sunday against Aston Villa and on Tuesday against Nottingham Forest [in the Carabao Cup]. These two matches I can decide whether or not to play.

“Hector Bellerin has had a long injury. He needs to go through a process, then we will see how he’s feeling. When he’s confident enough to play, he can start with us.

“With Kieran Tierney, his injury was shorter than Bellerin’s, but the same [process].

“He’ll play [Friday night], we’ll see how he finishes that match and then we have two matches Sunday and Tuesday so, maybe, maybe, he’ll be ready to play some minutes with us.”

Both Bellerin and Tierney lasted an hour of action unscathed as Arsenal’s under-23s drew 2-2 with Wolves last night.

Looking ahead to their return to Premier League action tomorrow, Arsenal have lost just one of their last 20 home games in the division, winning 20.

The Londoners are on a six-match winning streak against Villa, keeping a clean sheet in their past five meetings.

Villa, meanwhile, have lost their last nine away games in the top flight and are one game away from matching their club record of 10 straight defeats on the road set back in 1925.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang question asked over Arsenal future amid Gunners’ struggles

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Arsenal have a problem stopping other teams taking shots against them this season and can’t rely on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continually rescuing them in matches.

That is the view of former Liverpool and England striker, turned football pundit, Peter Crouch.

Arsenal have joined several clubs in the Premier League who have made an indifferent start to the season.

While they currently sit eighth in the table after five games, they are still only two points off second placed Manchester City who are on 10.

The Gunners success has been aided by goals from Aubameyang, who has six goals in six games for Arsenal in all competitions, however, it is the team’s defensive frailties that concerns Crouch.

He thinks a player of Aubameyang’s quality should be competing for trophies and is worried about the player’s future if the club keep relying on him to get them “out of hole” rather than helping them to win games.

“As things stand, [Arsenal] are miles away from being in the conversation for the title,” Crouch said via the Daily Mail.

“They have a chance of finishing in the top four this season, but you wouldn’t be in a hurry to put money on them and they look the most vulnerable in terms of losing their place in the top six.

“Yes, they are exciting and will score lots of goals but you wonder how Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will feel. 

“He’s genuinely world class and should be challenging for the biggest trophies but it can’t keep falling to him to get Arsenal out of a hole.”

After six games Arsenal’s opponents have taken 120 shots against them, of which 96 have come during Premier League games.

Although Arsenal beat Frankfurt 3-0 in the Europa League on Thursday the German side still managed to take 24 shots against the Gunners.

And while Frankfurt, who sit ninth in the Bundesliga, failed to capitalise on their opportunities, other teams have shown they can.

Last weekend Arsenal visited Vicarage Road to take on Watford and ended up coming away with a draw against a team who currently sit bottom of the table.

The Gunners took a 2-0 lead into the break, thanks to a brace from Aubameyang, however, a second-half comeback from the Hornets saw the points shared at the end of the game.

During the match Watford had 31 shots on goal, a new a club-record for a Premier League game, and Arsenal ended up succumbing to the pressure at the back as two defensive errors helped their opponents get back into the game.

And while Crouch doesn’t think Arsenal should part ways with boss Unai Emery, he thinks until the Gunners’ defensive problems are fixed they are going to struggle this season.

“When Emery first arrived in England, I backed him,” he added.

“I thought it was ridiculous that people wanted to criticise him after just one game (a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City) and said a coach with his track record deserved respect.

“I still believe he deserves a proper opportunity to turn things around.

Hiring and firing quickly is no way to run a club and I don’t think Arsenal would ever go down that route. 

“There is no denying, though, they are being compromised by the way they are playing. Until they stop the shots coming in, they will be vulnerable to shooting themselves in the foot.”

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