Mikel Arteta says criticism of Arsenal is ‘normal’ in light of recent results but he thinks it should be targeted at him rather than his players.
The Gunners were going great guns in the Premier League until three games ago but consecutive defeats to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton have threatened to derail their season in the blink of an eye.
Injuries to key men have seriously impacted an already thin squad and the manager also thinks their comparative inexperience is proving to be an issue.
“Hit me, give [it to] me, because I don’t want them to be hit because they are not prepared to take that,” he said of the criticism levelled at the side in recent days.
“The bill that you have to pay when you have such a young squad is this: that sometimes these things are going to happen.
“So, it is so fulfilling and so great to see what they are able to do and what they are really doing, which I cannot find a lot of cases very similar to that.
“And on the other hand, when this comes and when the storm comes, you have to be prepared to take it.”
Given Arsenal’s struggles in recent seasons, criticism of the coaching staff, players and tactics is nothing new. Arteta says the key is cutting through the noise and not making snap decisions when the pressure increases.
“First of all, take it and then filter it, and use what you think makes sense and is genuine, and what is not,” he replied when pressed on his reaction to negative headlines.
“But the reality is you lose three football matches, that we shouldn’t, and you are upset. This is an emotional, normal reaction and frustration that has to be shown.
“We have to worry the day that Arsenal loses three matches and there is no reaction. That day I think we have to go home. This is something really positive and shows the standards that we have to make.
“But we cannot lose sight about what happened and how it happened, and don’t drive yourself crazy and try to change everything in that moment. Because I think we have learned some lessons in the past about that as well.”
Having worked hard this campaign to shake off suggestions that Arsenal are ‘soft’ and ‘lack bottle’ – an image that has dogged us for years – it’s clear there is work still to do.
“It’s the Arsenal that we are,” he said. “To compare with what we were three years ago or 20 years ago or what is going to be, last week or next week…this is constantly evolving.
“These are human beings. You’ve seen many, many examples, that this team doesn’t give up, has a real character and a real togetherness about them but, in the end, this is defined when you win.”