Mikel Arteta refutes claims top four race pressure was placed on Arsenal at Palace


Mikel Arteta defended his Arsenal players, refuting claims the pressure of the top-four race had fallen to them after Monday’s 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, but conceded it was an “unacceptable” result.

he Gunners were blown away by their old captain Patrick Vieira, who saw his side take the lead twice in the space of 24 minutes through Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jordan Ayew before Wilfried Zaha’s late penalty provided a deserved shine.

A 5-1 win for Tottenham over Newcastle on Sunday saw them overtake rivals Arsenal in the race for Champions League qualification, but Arteta hit back as his young side felt the heat after a chastising night.

“Overall it’s unacceptable, we put our hands up, I’m the first and apologize, we’re regrouping, tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to prepare for Brighton,” said the Gunners boss.

“No, because the pressure has been there for the last seven or eight weeks and we talk about the race and the top four all the time, and that’s while they’ve been performing extremely well, getting results and playing well.

“Today we didn’t play and it’s as simple as that. We were second best in all areas, especially in the first half.”

Arsenal had won six of their previous seven games prior to Palace’s visit but looked uneasy from the start and it came as no surprise when Mateta nodded 16 minutes into a Joachim Andersen header.

It was 2-0 eight minutes later when Ayew collected Andersen’s pass and curled his shot around Aaron Ramsdale into the bottom corner. Selhurst Park was rocking now, but Arteta would have been horrified again at the defense of Gabriel Magalhaes and Nuno Tavares.

The second half went better for the visitors but Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard missed good openings before Zaha’s superb run earned a penalty which he converted to make it 3-0.

“No, we still have a game to go,” Arteta replied when asked if fourth place was a psychological blow to his team.

“We know a lot of things will happen in the nine games. We have to play against each other, we have to play some big games and we have to focus on ourselves. The problem we had today wasn’t Spurs, it was us and what we did in the first half.”

To make a bad night for the Gunners worse, Thomas Partey hobbled away in what Arteta described as a “major concern”, while Kieran Tierney is scheduled for a scan on Tuesday that will determine the extent of a worrying knee injury.

Arteta said of Tierney: “He will see the specialist tomorrow and we will know more about the extent of the injury but the feeling he had was not really positive and what the scan showed. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

The win for Palace put them in ninth place and extended their unbeaten streak to seven games before their trip to Wembley in two weeks for an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

Eagles manager Vieira said: “It was a really good performance. I think we wanted to put them under pressure from the first minute and not give them any time on the ball. We did well.

“I think there is more trust in the team, the players understand each other better and really get to know each other.

“There’s a clear vision of how we want to play and today we scored those goals at really important moments in the game. I also think the way we managed the game showed that we’re growing up as a team.”

Vieira spent nine years as a player at Arsenal, winning three Premier League titles at Highbury.

Asked if he was sorry for ruining his old club’s hopes of a Champions League return, he replied: “No, our main focus was on winning the game.” Mikel Arteta refutes claims top four race pressure was placed on Arsenal at Palace

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