Mikel Arteta wouldn’t be drawn on whether his players need to tone down their behaviour after Arsenal received a quick-fire brace of charges from the FA for disorderly conduct.
VAR dismissed the claim at the Emirates Stadium on 3 January and the technology wasn’t available at the Kassam Stadium as it’s a League One ground.
While it’s never a great look trying to pressure a referee into making a decision, it’s widely accepted that Arsenal didn’t do anything out of the ordinary in either case.
“I prefer not to comment on that,” said Arteta when asked if his players may need to err on the side of caution when they head to Sp*rs for the North London derby.
He then added: “Anything that we can do to improve [we’ll do]. We’ll always have conversations with our players and staff and as a club as well to see what we can do better and if we need to change behaviour.”
Pressed on whether he was surprised the club had been charged for the incident at Oxford, he again said: “I’d prefer not to comment on that aspect really.”
So far this season in the league, the Gunners have received 30 yellow cards and zero red cards. From a self-discipline perspective, it’s much improved following a couple of seasons where unnecessary red cards have ended up being costly to the club.
One example came at Sp*rs in May. Arsenal travelled up the Seven Sisters Road knowing a win would secure Champions League football but were reduced to 10 men in the first half when Rob Holding was twice booked. The home took advantage to secure a 3-0 win that ultimately helped them finish above us in the league.
It felt like the occasion, played in front of a hostile crowd, got the better of Arsenal. So are the Gunners better equipped to deal with the situation this time around?
“We prepare every game in a different way and we’ve talked about things that, in our opinion, are relevant for the way the game can develop. They are things that we discuss every week,” said Arteta.
Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah have both spoken this week about avenging that defeat at White Hart Lane. The boss maintains that his players just need to focus on what they are trained to do.
“We don’t think about sending messages, we think about performances and playing well and earning the right to win the game,” he said.
“That’s what we have to do and the best way to do it is to focus on that. The rest we cannot control. I don’t know the perception of the rest [of the clubs] on us, the way they analyse. We have to focus on what we can do.”