Mikel Arteta looked like he was sucking on razor blades as he spoke to the media immediately after Arsenal’s latest defeat.
The Arsenal manager was not impressed with Granit Xhaka, like the rest of his, but while he tried to offer some platitudes to take the edge off, there was no disguising the fury Arteta was feeling after his side lost at home to Burnley.
Was that at the defeat or Xhaka? It’s hard to tell, but there is certainly a feeling he went easier on the Swiss than he did the Ivorian.
“You see what happened the other 60/70 mins, we had total control of the game, we should have won it earlier,” Arteta said before he was asked if he had the same sort of strong words for Xhaka that he served up for Nicolas Pepe after the Leeds game. “Unacceptable” he had said about Pepe. He didn’t quite use the word for Xhaka.
“Same words and, in these conditions, even worse. He was then asked to clarify what he meant by ‘conditions.’ “The conditions we are in with not winning matches, you cannot do that,” he replied.
No, you certainly cannot and it remains to be seen what will happen to Xhaka beyond his three-game suspension.
Arteta was also asked if Xhaka had accepted that what he had done was wrong. “I’m sure he will,” Arteta answered about the man who has still not taken full responsibility for his role in losing the captaincy under Unai Emery.
This is worth watching just to see Arteta’s face:
It is also worth noting that even though Arteta is clearly furious, he was significantly less harsh than he was about Pepe, even going so far as to make excuses for Xhaka, before saying he wasn’t making excuses.
“I think it is related for how much will and energy and commitment they want to put in the games and they overstepped the line and that’s not the excuse because I want to be brave and not to do what we do what we’ve done again today because you just give the game to your opponent.”
It wasn’t just in his immediate interview either, others noticed it later at the press conference:
Notable difference in the press conference from Arteta in how he responded to a question on Xhaka sending off v Pepe sending off. Much less clear blame. Make of that what you will.
— Amy Lawrence (@amylawrence71) December 13, 2020