Mikel Arteta says Arsenal can’t use an injury to Thomas Partey as an excuse for the 3-1 defeat to Manchester City after the Ghana international was ruled out of the match just hours before kick-off.
The Spaniard had declared a clean bill of health – long-term absentees aside – in his pre-game press conference but ended up handing January signing Jorginho a first start in Gunners’ colours after the lynchpin of his midfield suffered a late thigh issue.
“We don’t know,” said Arteta when pressed for an update on the severity of Partey’s injury.
“It’s what happens – it’s part of football. There are no excuses. I think Jorgi played a really good game and we’ll have to assess Thomas to see how bad it is.”
Arsenal head to Aston Villa on Saturday morning and you have to assume the number 5 is a major doubt for the trip to Birmingham.
In Partey’s absence, the Gunners stuck to their principles against City, repeatedly choosing to play out from the back despite the visitors pressing higher up the pitch after the break.
At times, Arsenal rushed their decisions on the ball and when turnovers happened, City made them pay in a clinical fashion. Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland scored within 10 minutes of each other to put the game out of the home side’s reach after a pulsating first half had seen Bukayo Saka’s penalty cancel out Kevin De Bruyne’s opener.
“When errors happen as part of the risks we take, the risk and reward is understanding what we have to do,” explained Arteta.
“We didn’t understand well what we had to do, especially in the second half, when they changed their formation and went in a different shape.
“But we came out of there a lot of times and created big problems for them, so it’s always that balance.”
On gifting City all three goals, he added: “That’s the frustration – it’s exceptionally difficult to play at the level that they require you to play at to have the chance to win.
“I think we’ve done it and in many moments we had them, but if you give three goals the way we did – just give them the game – and especially when you don’t put the big chances that we had away, the margin of error for them is almost zero. It’s a shame because we really had them.”
City’s win sees them leapfrog the Gunners to reclaim top spot in the table. Having failed to win any of the last four games, there are serious concerns that the loss of confidence experienced by Arteta’s side could become terminal.
“Just move on and realise why we lost the game,” was the manager’s message to his players.
“We lost it – I think we lost it. We have to move on because the performance was there in many situations.
For our team to play at the level that we have to play at to reach that, it’s very difficult and the boys did exceptionally well. The atmosphere was just incredible and the shame is just that we didn’t get the points.”