Mikel Arteta insists he has no regrets about the way he called out perceived mistakes by the officials during Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat to Newcastle and says he and the club have a duty to speak up with the aim of helping the game and refereeing standards evolve.
The Spaniard couldn’t hide his fury on Saturday night after Anthony Gordon’s match-winning goal was allowed to stand at St James’ Park despite three separate incidents in the build-up being reviewed by VAR.
While Arteta’s meltdown and the supportive statement released by Arsenal 24 hours later have not gone down well with certain sections of the media, when he faced the press on Tuesday morning, he was unwilling to back down.
“It is my duty to stand in front of you, to stand in front of the cameras and give a very clear and honest assessment of what happens in the game,” he said.
“This is what I did, reflect very openly how I felt that the team played and how they game was conditioned by this result with the decisions that were made. It’s the duty, my duty is defending my players, supporting my players, supporting my club, defending my people in the best possible way and this is what I’m going to do time after time.
“I do it the way I feel with the evidence and being as clear as possible and I always do it. When we play brilliantly, to say that, when we have lost, to take my responsibility, the first one me to do it. It’s the way that I am and I have to defend my club.”
Arteta was then asked if he stands by previous comments where he stated that “mistakes are part of football”. He replied: “I stand for the same words that mistakes are part of football in any other way, and we are here to constructively improve the game in everything that we can, and this is what we have been doing.
“As a club, me the individual with my duty as a manager in the managers’ meeting, to give our opinion, our voices and to raise it in the most constructive ways together and [create] a better game, that’s all. That’s the only thing we are looking at collectively to achieve for everybody.”
Pressed again, he banged the same drum. “Errors are part of an evolution,” he continued.
“You know, the trajectory is never going to be like this [upwards]. There are always bumps along the road and maybe these things are very necessary to improve the game in the right way. And that’s it. But we have to talk loudly.
“You have a problem and you put it there in a drawer, the problem is that the drawer is going to stink at some moment. If we have a problem, let’s talk about it, let’s try to improve it and let’s try to in a very constructive way, try to improve it. That’s it. That’s what we are trying to do. Nothing else.”
Arteta also seemed to admit that his reaction was driven not just by Saturday’s officiating but by frustration at the way the officials had interpreted several other incidents in previous matches.
“Some things don’t happen overnight,” he admitted. “When it was that clear and I had all the evidence for the words that I used in the media, it’s because I feel strongly about them.”
He also stressed that while he has focused on the officiating in his press conference, in the dressing room he had a different message for his players.
“One thing is what I say externally, but internally to my players it’s about how can we play better, how can we be more dominant, how we can do the game the way we want to give no chance to the opponent.
“One thing is my duty towards you guys and then my duty as a coach to do what we have to do. This is exactly what I’ve done, nothing special, nothing different, and I would do it and the club would do it again and again until this is right. Until this is right, we have to be better on the pitch and win more football games. That’s it.”