Mikel Arteta has revealed that Eddie Nketiah apologised to his teammates after being sent off in the 1-1 draw with Leicester but was quick to absolve the young striker of any guilt.
Nketiah had only been on the field of play for a couple of minutes when he missed the ball challenging for a 50-50 ball with James Justin.
Initially shown a yellow card for making contact high up the Leicester defender’s leg, the punishment was upgraded to a red after referee Chris Kavanagh consulted the VAR monitor on the side of the pitch.
Leicester went on to equalise through Jamie Vardy’s 84th-minute strike as Gunners legs tired in the pouring rain.
Nketiah looks set to miss the league games with Sp*rs and Liverpool and the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City. It’s a big blow for a player who has been important since returning from Leeds.
“He’s disappointed,” Arteta told his post-game press conference. “He’s said sorry and he doesn’t need to do that.
“I know when he goes for every single ball it’s because he’s so willing to win every challenge, be on the front foot in every action, he didn’t see the player coming up and obviously he doesn’t want to hurt anybody so… It’s part of the process.
“They are really young, they need to learn from these situations and hopefully, it won’t happen again.”
Arteta says he also expects the squad to rally around the 21-year-old.
“Absolutely, I think we all have to support him and there are a few things that happened that meant we didn’t win the game, it was not just that action.
“Obviously against top opposition, playing with 10 men, you make it really difficult for yourself and it’s something that we have to build on as a team.”
While Arteta accepted that Nketiah’s challenge could be deemed a red card, he was obviously furious at what he adjudged to be double-standards from the officials.
Just before half time, Shkodran Mustafi suffered nasty cuts to his face after Jamie Vardy tumbled to the ground and swung his foot at the German. While VAR reviewed the incident, the referee wasn’t advised that it was worth looking at himself.
Asked to compare the two flashpoints, Arteta said: “What I’m saying is that if we review incidents of that type, it [red cards] will be the norm.
“It has to be something equal for everyone because it changes the game completely and if Eddie’s is a red card, then for sure the other one is a red card.”