Mikel Arteta says he loves his Arsenal players even more than before despite suffering a poor 1-0 defeat at Everton on Saturday.
The Gunners lost only their second Premier League game of the season against a Toffees side who looked reborn under new manager Sean Dyche.
A James Tarkowski header from a corner was enough to give the home side a deserved win at a raucous Goodison Park, as the league leaders struggled to break down the team who started the weekend 19th in the table.
20 games down, Arsenal’s advantage over Manchester City in the title race remains at five points, with Pep Guardiola’s side set to visit Tottenham on Sunday.
It was easily one of Arsenal’s worst performances of the season so far and Arteta acknowledged this after full-time, listing numerous reasons why his team failed to get a hold of the game.
We had loads of the ball but we lacked that purpose and quality in the final third, we generated many chances,’ the manager told BT Sport.
‘But then we conceded and they slowed the game down and we struggled. They do this to every team that is their strength with the height, the physicality is their strength, if you want to control the game against them you have to control this.
We did not do that today. We needed more composure and to control emotionally the game better.’
In his post-match press conference he added: ‘The performance doesn’t reflect what we’ve been doing especially in two phases – one, when they were really direct and we struggled to control that type of game and get back to the game that we wanted to play.
‘And then with the amount of open situations that we generated in the final third that has to finish with goals and clear cut chances more than we’ve done today.
In the last 10 or 15 minutes, particularly after we made the changes, we started to give away a lot of unnecessary free kicks and a lot of rash decisions which is exactly what they want.’
Despite all of this, Arteta refused to directly criticise his players and reiterated that their title bid was always going to have bumps in the road.
‘Today I love them much better than the week before or a month ago. It is easy to be next to someone when they are winning well. I am still so proud of all of these players, they deserve it.