Mikel Arteta apologised to Arsenal’s supporters for a disastrous second‑half display in a 3-0 home defeat against Brighton that effectively ended the title race as a contest, admitting his team had let people down.
Arsenal were well beaten in only their second reverse on home turf this season, conceding three times after the interval and finishing the day four points behind Manchester City, who will secure first place with one more win. Gunners players cut dejected figures afterwards, Martin Ødegaard effectively admitting he had lost hope of winning the league, and a similarly flat Arteta lamented the manner in which they had fallen short.
“A week ago I was standing here feeling proud and today we have to apologise for the performance in the second half: it was not acceptable,” Arteta said before explaining Arsenal had not met the skyrocketing expectations that a largely stellar season has inspired.
“Obviously what the team has done over the last 10 months is very different to what anybody expected and that generates a lot of expectation as well enthusiasm, happiness and joy,” he said. “We have the responsibility to make sure the team performs and I am responsible for that. So I hate the feeling of letting people down when they are expecting something. That’s the biggest regret I have today and I have to apologise for that.”
While Arteta refused to concede the title mathematically, Ødegaard was blunter. “It is going to be very difficult now, we have to be honest,” the captain said. “It is tough to take.
“It is not a good feeling at the moment. The way we played, particularly in the second half, I don’t know what happened to be honest. It feels like there is no hope now.”
Arteta suggested Arsenal’s capitulation gave him concern for the future. “If a team is capable of doing that when it comes to the biggest stage, there’s a lot of things to analyse and think about because it cannot happen,” he said.
“You have to do a lot of good things, incredible things, to be second in this league, and we’ve done that. But if the team can show that face as well, there are things that have to be addressed.”
A satisfied Roberto De Zerbi, who celebrated Pervis Estupiñán’s third goal with a knee slide on the Emirates pitch, hailed his team’s response to Monday’s stunning 5-1 home defeat to Everton. After that game he had shown them a Michael Jordan video as motivation. Brighton’s quest for a Europa League spot is back on track and a win at Newcastle on Thursday could even leave the door to Champions League football ajar.
“Really happy, really proud because the last five days were very difficult,” he said. “Today we showed our value, our passion, we showed we are serious people. We can speak about football, about our style, we can speak about the quality of the players, but first of all we won the game because we suffered a lot after the last defeat.
“Our idea is to win [the last]four games, it’s very difficult. Maybe we don’t win four, but I think we deserve to qualify for Europe. Which Europe, I don’t know.”