Losing a derby is one thing. It’s another entirely when the away end starts to vacate early because the manner of the defeat is too painful to bear. That is what Arsenal suffered on Thursday.
Beginning the game strongly, Arsenal had Tottenham right where they wanted them. Passing the ball around neatly and organised the press well, in the early exchanges the Spurs crowd began growing frustrated with their team.
Groans were heard around the ground as passes into defenders’ feet were given straight back to Hugo Lloris, and without testing the Tottenham net the game had fallen into a state of apparent comfort for Arsenal. The hosts didn’t have a sniff up until the opening goal.
Paul Tierney then took over the spotlight. He awarded a penalty and sent Rob Holding off in the space of ten minutes. The game turned in that short spell and what ended up being a 3-0 defeat felt like it could so easily have been much worse.
Mikel Arteta’s furious Arsenal stance after defeat to Tottenham is the right siege mentality approach ahead of Premier League run-in
The referee has therefore come under serious flak. But, can Arsenal really complain about any of the decisions? Were it roles reversed there is nobody who wouldn’t have asked for similar punishments in both instances.
Mikel Arteta, however, felt differently.
"“I want to be on the touchline on Monday night,” the manager said in response to some of the decisions. “No [I can’t talk] because I will be suspended.“You can ask the referee if he wants to come and give an assessment of the match. I can do it but I have two options, I can lie to you, which I don’t do, or if not I will be suspended and I really want to be on the touchline against Newcastle.“I prefer not to [speak about the incident].”"
Does Arteta truly believe that? In his heart of hearts, were the main decisions in the game ones that he will fully believe his team were hard done by in? No.
What he’s doing is building a siege mentality. Deflecting the blame from his players and the two senior members of his squad who were main culprits, he’s forging an us-against-them mindset. If the players feel they were unfairly treated by the referee then less time will be spent focusing on the failings of their own performance.
When there is another game right around the corner and that, along with Everton, is an absolute must-win, adopting this frame of mind is unquestionably the right move.
Gary Neville and Martin Tyler’s grotesque fawning over Spurs was vomit-inducing and hideously biased, while Antonio Conte, who is still moaning about something that happened four months ago and was booked for protesting in the match, had the nerve to say Arteta ‘complains too much’.
Everyone is against Arsenal and that is precisely what the manager will seek to channel. Going into Newcastle now there is an even greater point to prove. To quote George Graham: it’s fine that people hate us, it’s part of our history.
Arteta said what he said because he had to. Not because he actually maintains the idea that refereeing calls cost his side the game.
When the job is done, all of this noise will make it even sweeter.