Mikel Arteta suggested he would be “suspended for six months” if he gave his honest assessment of key refereeing decisions made during Arsenal’s 3-0 north London derby defeat to Tottenham.
Arsenal went into what many considered as the most important north London derby in Premier League history knowing victory would secure Champions League football for next season.
But they were blown away by Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Rob Holding’s 33rd-minute sending off for two bookings playing a big role – though the hosts were already 1-0 up thanks to a Harry Kane penalty.
Kane got Spurs’ second shortly after Holding’s dismissal and Son Heung-min put the game beyond the Gunners early in the second half, as Antonio Conte’s men moved to within a point of Arsenal heading into the final two matchdays of the season.
Should Arsenal ultimately miss out on Champions League football again, many will point to this defeat as a pivotal moment, and Arteta seemingly laid the responsibility at the feet of the officials.
When asked for his “thoughts” on the game, Arteta told Sky Sports: “Well, if I say what I think, I’m suspended [for] six months, so I cannot say.
“I’m allowed to give my interpretation of what happened in the game, but I don’t know how to lie so I prefer not to say what I think.”
But it was unclear precisely which decision Arteta felt aggrieved by, as Holding was arguably lucky not to have been already sent off before his brutal barge on Son, which in itself could have potentially drawn a straight red.
That was his fourth foul of the game, more than he has ever committed in a single Premier League match despite playing just 33 minutes.
4 – Rob Holding made four fouls against Spurs leading up to his dismissal, with all four of them coming on Son Heung-min. His four fouls are the most he has ever made in a Premier League game, despite only playing 33 minutes. Unrestrained. pic.twitter.com/d8ksuoqslf
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 12, 2022
Similarly, the decision to penalise Cedric Soares for a shove on Son in the area appeared a clear-cut one by referee Paul Tierney.
Arteta initially refused to delve much deeper, as he reiterated the belief he would be banned if he was honest, but he did eventually call out the officials.
“You can ask the referee to come in front of the camera and explain his decisions,” he said. “It’s a shame because such a beautiful game was destroyed today.”
Arsenal have two more matches to secure fourth – they face Newcastle United and Everton in their last games of the season.
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