Mikel Arteta claimed fan protests against Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke did not play on the minds of his players during an 1-0 defeat to Everton on Friday.
Over a thousand Arsenal supporters gathered outside Emirates Stadium to voice their dissent at Kroenke’s role in the failed European Super League breakaway project.
Arsenal were one of the 12 founding members of the competition before they withdrew on Tuesday, apologising in an open letter to fans.
Arteta revealed his team had arrived early to avoid the protests, but they produced a meek display on the pitch as Bernd Leno’s calamitous own goal handed Everton the points.
It was Arsenal’s first Premier League defeat at home to Everton since January 1996, ending a 24-game unbeaten run against the Toffees at the Emirates or Old Trafford.
“No, no,” Arteta told a media conference when asked if the defeat could be put down to the protests.
“We knew that was happening and we knew our fans wanted to express our feelings. We made our preparations with that in mind and that’s not an excuse
“We got inside the stadium [early]. Obviously, the players know what is happening, they are all connected to social media. We let them know the reasons why they [the fans] were outside.
“I am desperate to have [the fans] back because we really need them. We have a really young team who has to experience the emotion, security and trust when you feel your people really behind you.”
Arteta urged Arsenal’s board and fans to rebuild their relationship, but did not address questions related to calls for Kroenke to go.
“Well I think it’s a relationship that has to come together from both parties,” Arteta added.
“Some probably giving some opportunities and the other ones showing that they want to be closer to them. I talk about what my experience is and what my relationship is and how involved they are.
“Now the biggest challenge is to get them in the stadium as quick as possible, and show that passion, togetherness and unity with the team because the team is desperate for them to be closer to us.”
2 – Arsenal have scored an own goal in both league matches against Everton this season, the third time they have put the ball in their own net home and away against a side in a Premier League campaign (also 2011-12 vs Liverpool and 2008-09 vs Chelsea). Howler.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 23, 2021
The Gunners have now lost seven games on their own turf in the Premier League this season – their most home defeats in a league campaign since 1992-93 (also seven).
They have also failed to score in eight Premier League games at home this season, twice as many as in the previous four campaigns combined.
Arteta described Arsenal’s home form as “terrible” and “unacceptable” but criticised a VAR decision to overrule the award of a penalty earlier in the game.
Arsenal were awarded a spot-kick when Dani Ceballos went down in the box after a slight touch from Richarlison, but VAR deemed Nicolas Pepe was in an offside position in the build-up.
“This has been building up. Enough is enough. Today I had enough,” Arteta said of the decision.
“We’ve had many of them that no-one explains. It affects a lot of people, our job and most important our football club.”
Arteta added in an interview with Sky Sports: “To disallow a penalty 15 seconds before eight or nine touches [after Nicolas Pepe was offside] – I saw it 10 times and I don’t get it.
“It can be taken the way they want. Zero control. Somebody has to explain that.
“We were the better team. We lacked some clear-cut chances and the edge in the final third. They are very well organised but we conceded the goal in the wrong moment and when we had the penalty but it wasn’t given.”