Dani Ceballos has slammed former Arsenal manager Unai Emery, saying the Gunners were “almost dead” when he left and Mikel Arteta is now the “soul of the club”.
Emery was sacked in November 2019 after a seven-match winless streak, their worst run without a victory since 1992.
Arteta will soon celebrate a year in charge and Ceballos believes he is the right man to improve the club’s fortunes.
“The team was almost dead - but after Arteta’s arrival we won the FA Cup and the Community Shield,” he told The Sun.
“It’s not even a year since he arrived and he has given a radical change to the club. He’s the soul of the club and he’s lucky that the players trust him 100 per cent. Arsenal need him, in part because he takes the initiative most of the time.”
Arsenal have slipped down the table in recent years and haven’t finished in the top four since 2016.
Ceballos, who is on loan from Real Madrid, says they have to get back into the Champions League.
“Arsenal have to fight to be in the top four. But before there were five teams fighting to get into the Champions League, now there are six or seven.
“You just have to look at Manchester City, one of the best teams in England, or Manchester United. They are not up at the top of the table. Southampton and Aston Villa, who last year struggled not to be relegated, have surprised everyone. It is a tremendously competitive league, anyone can beat anyone. But our moment will come.”
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Ceballos was recently involved in a training ground scuffle with David Luiz, but says there are no lingering issues after the confrontation.
“I’m not going to say that there wasn’t a clash or a scuffle. It was not an exemplary behaviour but it is good to see Arsenal is alive - that the team has character.
“We are two footballers with very similar leadership qualities and these things can happen.
“We didn’t let a single day go by. We spoke that same afternoon after training. Now we have to learn so it does not happen again.”