Mikel Arteta refused to comment directly about the officiating that turned the tide of the north London derby against his side but he couldn’t hide his disappointment that Arsenal’s bright start at White Hart Lane quickly turned into a nightmare.
Travelling up the Seven Sisters Road knowing a win would seal Champions League qualification, the Gunners succumbed to a horrible 3-0 defeat, the foundations of which were laid in the first half when referee Paul Tierney awarded a penalty against Cedric Soares for a nudge on Heung Min Son and a red card to Rob Holding for two bookable offences.
“You can ask the referee if he wants to come and give an assessment of the match,” replied Arteta when asked about the decisions that shaped the game.
“I can do it but I have two options, I can lie to you, which I don’t do, or, if not, I will be suspended and I really want to be on the touchline against Newcastle [on Monday].”
He added: “We wanted to play a game and we were so excited to play a game and you’ve seen the team how they started, the way we were playing and this beautiful occasion was destroyed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy the game that we wanted to play.”
Privately, Arteta must be disappointed with some of the decision-making of his players but he was never going to throw anyone under the bus given the confidence knock his players have already received from a tough night.
Deliberately spiky with the press, no doubt hoping to be a lightning rod for their headlines, he instead rallied the troops.
“We can’t wait now to play on Monday, this is how I feel,” he added.
“The disappointment must take over the opportunity and beautiful two games that we have ahead of us. This is where our energy is going to be.”
Tomorrow, Arteta will need to hatch a plan for beating Newcastle with three centre-backs potentially missing.
In addition to Rob Holding being suspended and Gabriel going off with an injury, there remain concerns about the fitness of Ben White. The England international was fit enough to make the bench this evening but, when push came to shove, Arteta decided not to throw him on the pitch when the Gunners went down to 10 men.
“Gabi isn’t normally a player who asks to get off the pitch, he felt something. Hopefully it’s not much because obviously, having Rob out [suspended] and Ben with no training sessions, we are really short in that position.”
On Gabriel’s injury, he clarified, “It’s a muscular problem and we will have to assess him.”