Mikel Arteta accused the match officials of “destroying a beautiful game” after 10-man Arsenal suffered a damaging 3-0 north London derby defeat and then was accused of complaining too much by Tottenham boss Antonio Conte.
Arsenal were trailing to Harry Kane’s first-half penalty when Rob Holding prevented Heung-Min Son from racing in behind with a shoulder barge and saw red for a second bookable offence.
Referee Paul Tierney and VAR had earlier ignored an apparent elbow from Son on Holding but showed no hesitation giving the Gunners centre-back his marching orders, a decision which riled Arteta.
“If I say what I think I am suspended for six months,” Arteta told Sky Sports. “I don’t know how to lie so I prefer not to say what I think. I cannot say what I think.
“I want the referees to come in front of the camera and explain his decisions. It’s a shame because such a beautiful game was destroyed today.
“I am not unhappy with my players. I am proud of my players. The decision was made. We can’t change it. The referee has to make a decision in football.”
Defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium cut Arsenal’s advantage over their north London rivals in the race for Champions League qualification to a point with two games to play.
With the Gunners travelling to Newcastle on Monday Night Football – live on Sky Sports – for a pivotal penultimate game of the season, Arteta was keen to draw a line under Thursday’s derby defeat.
“Our focus is Newcastle,” Arteta added. “This game is history. This is gone. It went out of our hands and we have to accept it. Now we need to be the team that you saw from the beginning.
“When you lose a football match in the conditions, we lost them it’s painful. But we have a huge match on Monday so we will try to beat them. We have two games to play each. It’s in our hands and now we have to do our jobs. We showed from the beginning in this game.”
Conte: Arteta complains too much
Conte revelled in taking a dig at his opposite number in his post-match press conference, offering Arteta some personal “advice” on complaining less following the Arsenal manager’s comments about Tierney’s performance.
He also pointed to his own temperament when Liverpool’s Fabinho was not shown a red card for a bad challenge on Heung-Min Son during their 1-1 draw at Anfield in their previous game on Saturday.
He said: “[Arteta] is a really good coach, he can become an important coach in the future. But in six months I have listened to him complain a lot.
“He’s just started in his job, and I have listened to him complain a lot. I think he has to be focused more on his team, and not complaining. I think he has to be calmer, and try to continue to work because he is very good. But a coach complaining a lot is not good.
“The red card for me was clear. Don’t forget against Liverpool, I said nothing about what happened with Fabinho. If we want to complain, we have the possibility every game to speak about the referee, decisions, postponed games.
“If you remember, he complained about the [postponed] fixture. At the time I said it was not good to complain, because Arsenal were happy to postpone the game in an incredible way for Covid positives, and they only had one player with Covid. I did not forget this.”
As much as January’s postponed north London derby had clearly stuck in the Spurs head coach’s mind, Conte said his players had also used the late call-off from Arsenal as inspiration for their victory four months on.
He added: “I think for sure [the postponement was a motivation]. It wasn’t a good situation, we were ready to play at that time and to see it postponed in that way made us a bit angry. But we know this is the past, the present is different.
“I have said before I would like to play against Arsenal with all the players available. I think my players were a bit angry for the first game too, because we lost 3-1. It was an important target tonight.”
Neville: Big for Conte | Spurs favourites now
“What is happening with Conte at the end of the season? Tonight, there are not going to be many clubs in Europe that Conte is going to be able to go to. This is the league at the moment,” said Gary Neville, speaking on The Gary Neville Podcast.
“I have been critical of this league four or five years ago when it was underperforming in Europe but this is a great league at this moment in time with great managers. It is where I think you want to be a manager in terms of showcasing yourself.
“I think for Conte that was big tonight. Champions League? No brainer, he stays. The only problem is that he wants to be in the Champions League, he needs to be in the Champions League. So, I do think it is a big night. But irrespective of whether they get into the Champions League, this must have an impact on Conte. I know he is quite ruthless about where he wants to be and what he wants to do. But that must have had an impact on him.
“Those players out there will see something building if they get in this Champions League. It is going to do unbelievable things for Spurs. They look a bit more experienced, more composed, more mature and in order. Arsenal look more fragile. In the last week of the season, you want that reliability. I do see Spurs being favourites now.”