Mikel Arteta says Xhaka red card ‘worse’ than Pépé’s as Arsenal crisis deepens

Mikel Arteta says Xhaka red card ‘worse’ than Pépé’s as Arsenal crisis deepens

Mikel Arteta is under mounting pressure after Arsenal slumped to a fourth consecutive home defeat against Burnley, leaving them 15th in the top flight and with one win from their last eight Premier League games.

Although Arteta’s job is not believed to be in danger at this time, Arsenal find themselves in a spiral that is becoming harder to escape with each damaging result. Indiscipline is a particular problem and they were undone against Burnley when Granit Xhaka was dismissed shortly before the hour for grabbing Ashley Westwood’s throat. A Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang own goal then gave Burnley the points and Arteta was left to rue Xhaka’s indiscretion.

“Same word” he said when asked whether he would describe his midfielder’s actions as “unacceptable”, which was the term he used after Nicolas Pépé was sent off for his own act of violent conduct at Leeds last month. “And in these conditions even worse. [In] the conditions that we are in when we are not winning football matches it’s even worse.”

Arteta appeared willing to let Xhaka off lightly in public, suggesting he had been too fired up to put Arsenal’s season back on track. “Honestly, I think it is unacceptable to do that action and the players are in a moment where they are so willing to do more, to fight more, to show how committed they are, to be alive in the games,” he said. “On this occasion Granit has overstepped the line.”

Presumably Arteta will have been fuming in private and he indicated that he expects Xhaka to front up to his mistake in the dressing room, admitting the red card had “cost us” and that his side were “hurting”.

He also addressed an incident involving Mohamed Elneny, just before the winning goal, in which the Egyptian was fortunate not to follow Xhaka down the tunnel after shoving James Tarkowski. “It looks similar and we cannot make that mistake because that’s the wrong approach to what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Arsenal have scored twice in those eight winless matches – an Aubameyang penalty at Old Trafford and a Gabriel Magalhães header after a corner against Wolves – but Arteta does not believe his side are playing like potential relegation candidates.

“A team that is struggling, we don’t normally see play the way they did today, and with the way they played against Spurs [a week ago],” he said. “We gave the opponent a chance and they scored, and it’s about winning football matches.”

Arteta’s opposite number, Sean Dyche, believed Arsenal should have been reduced to nine men but hailed his own side’s first away win of the campaign. “Xhaka’s getting sent off, I don’t know how Elneny doesn’t,” he said. “The performance was built on what we’ve done so many times: that strength of unity to work for each other and then find the right margins.”

Arsenal face a quickfire return to the Emirates on Wednesday when they take on a buoyant Southampton. Arteta will welcome back Pépé from suspension but Xhaka will miss the first of his three games out.