Mikel Arteta says he’ll always support his players if they make a mistake trying to implement his playing philosophy but admits Arsenal aren’t going to progress if they keep making costly errors at the back.
The Gunners dropped two points at Turf Moor on Saturday as Burnley came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw after Chris Wood, anticipating a Granit Xhaka pass across his own box, cancelled out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opener.
On a frustrating afternoon, the Gunners were later denied a penalty when Erik Pieters clearly handled in the box and then saw a spot-kick correctly overturned after the Dutchman blocked a Nicolas Pepe shot onto the bar with his shoulder. Just for good measure, Bukayo Saka and Pepe missed other golden chances before Dani Ceballos hit the post deep into stoppage time.
After the match, Arteta was quizzed on the costly mistakes that continue to pepper the Gunners games.
“We are talking about it all the time and just trying to nullify anything that we give to the opponent,” he said.
“In the last few weeks, we have done that. We have to improve that individually, as in the end we have to make decisions on the pitch and it looks easy from the outside. It’s not that easy away from home, but if someone makes a mistake because they’re playing the way we want to play, I will always support them. If someone is hiding and doesn’t want to play and then makes a mistake, I’m not going to have that.”
As he did in his interview with BT Sport, the boss defended his preferred style of play pointing out that opponents are perfectly capable of creating chances when his side opt to clear the ball long and that building from the back also led to his side scoring.
“Yes, but it can happen in football,” he said when asked if he was frustrated by the manner of the goal. “We did it usually with Bernd trying to use the holding midfielder in that situation and we scored a goal with Auba, all the way from Bernd Leno.
“We conceded one [other] chance and that chance comes from Bernd Leno deciding to kick the ball long and we could not control the second ball with an open structure. It’s what it is, it’s the way that we play and the way that I want to play. We just have to know the risk and the rules that we have in certain areas in terms of the type of balls we have to play. But it is what it is.”
The Gunners are currently labouring in 10th place in the Premier League and time is running out to build the necessary momentum for a genuine shot at European qualification via domestic means.
“It’s really complicated at the moment,” admitted Arteta. “It’s true that the feeling that I have with the way we are playing is that we can win any game, but as well, as you mentioned before, if you are giving something to the opponent, obviously the game is all the time on the line. This is where, in my opinion, we have the biggest margin of improvement. But anything can happen.”
While Arteta was at pains to make clear his players only have themselves to blame, he did also touch on the failure of VAR to award his side a penalty.
“We created, but we didn’t score enough. We gave a goal to the opponent and then don’t get the decision that we should get. It then becomes very difficult to win the game.
“I think it’s obvious and clear [the handball], I think there is no debate about that. If that is not a penalty, then would someone explain what a penalty is in this league.”
Arsenal have a couple of days to regroup before heading to Athens to face Olympiacos on Thursday.