For the second time in three weeks, Mikel Arteta has used the word “unacceptable” to describe one of his players — this time, midfielder Granit Xhaka — earning a red card for violent conduct during the second half of a scoreless game that Arsenal desperately needed to win.
Xhaka followed in the footsteps of Nicolas Pepe with a hand around the throat of Burnley’s Dwight McNeil during Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Burnley. It was the sixth red card shown to an Arsenal player since Arteta took over just under a year ago. No other Premier League side has earned more than three during the same period.
Arsenal conceded immediately after the restart of play when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang headed the ball into his own net.
Speaking in his post-game television interviews, Mikel Arteta once again held very little back in laying into one of his players, stating emphatically, “We threw the game away with the red card.” However, he did seem to defend Xhaka with regard to his “commitment” and “willingness” to battle for the team — quotes from the BBC:
“We know that these things are unacceptable and the moment that we are in now it’s even more so.”
“You saw the performance of the boys, how much they wanted it, the chances we created and then we threw the game away with the red card. We had total control for 60-70 minutes and should have won it earlier.”
“Same words [as when Pepe was sent off before]. In these conditions, even worse. I think it is related into how much will and energy they put into the games, but it is not an excuse.
“You go on Wednesday against Southampton at home and try to win the game. We have to score a goal, we have to put the ball in the net.
“We were on top from the beginning to the moment of the sending off. We are not winning football matches and I am here to provide wins. Everyday work on it.”
“They are really willing and probably too willing. In key moments, we overstepped the line and got a man sent off.
“By ‘too willing,’ I mean that they are incredibly committed to what they are trying to do, they are trying their best — the energy that they play with, and we took it into the wrong place, because in that moment they were left exposed.”
As for the 2,000 fans in attendance at the Emirates Stadium booing the Arsenal players off the field following the full-time whistle, left back Kieran Tierney offered the most honest assessment of the day.
“It was deserved. They are coming out here and supporting us.”