Mikel Arteta says his players can take pride from their performance despite Arsenal embarking on a bizarre capitulation against Wolves that saw them squander a one-goal advantage and end the night with two red cards.
The game’s pivotal moment came deep into first half stoppage time when referee Craig Pawson awarded the home side a penalty and sent off David Luiz after the Brazilian appeared to catch the heels of compatriot Willian Jose in the box. While VAR backed up the on-field officials, replays showed the minimal contact was arguably instigated, albeit accidentally, by the attacker.
Ruben Neves tucked away the penalty and three minutes after the break, Wolves completed the comeback courtesy of Joao Moutinho’s 30-yard screamer.
The Gunners had been in total control prior to the equaliser and were unlucky not to have more to show for their first half endeavours than Nicolas Pepe’s fine strike. To make matters worse, Bernd Leno also received a straight red for handling outside the box after misjudging the bounce of a long through ball.
In his post-game press conference, Arteta was bristling with frustration at the officials but tried to strike a positive tone given the slickness of some of his side’s play.
“First of all I have to say that I am extremely proud of our team and the way we played, the way we dominated the first half,” he said.
“We should have been three or four-nil up. We didn’t do that and we put ourselves in a really difficult position after conceding the goal and going a man down.
“If you want to talk about the decision, I’ve just seen the replay 10 times in five different angles. I’m sitting here with you guys and I cannot see any contact. I would like to see if VAR has a different angle.”
Having worked so hard to put together a seven-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, the concern will be that this defeat will kill the Gunners’ upward momentum. The boss is determined to keep things in context.
“The way we lost the game is where it really hurts and it’s painful,” he said.
“I have to take the positives as well in the way the team is evolving, the way the team played against this opponent, which is really difficult to attack, the amount of chances we created. We leave the ground, we have zero points and we lost two important players.”
Asked if he can take heart from the way his attack clicked in the first half, he added: “Absolutely, and to play three days later after the game we played against United and how demanding it was mentally and physically, and the way they started the game straight away.
“The way the boys have trained, in the second half they came out and wanted to play the game with 10 men and that was the spirit of the dressing room. With nine players, I saw players pushing to chase the goalkeeper, it’s incredible, I’m so proud of them. It’s a shame we can’t leave the ground today with three points.”
Arteta also hinted that Arsenal might appeal Luiz’s red card.