Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal’s players have proved to themselves that they can compete at the Premier League’s top end after strengthening their position at the summit with a resounding win over Spurs, but stressed his side remain “hungry and humble”.
Arsenal deservedly won the north London derby with goals from Thomas Partey, Gabriel Jesus and Granit Xhaka, making light of a penalty equaliser by Harry Kane. They are four points clear at the top, at least until Sunday’s Manchester derby, and have won seven games from eight; while Arteta would not take the bait regarding a title push he admitted his team’s spirits are soaring.
Asked whether Arsenal had sent a message to their rivals, he said: “For me the message is to the players and everybody here at the club that we are able to play at this level against this kind of opponent. That should give them confidence and belief.
“Looking at the table and seeing the club in this position is great. It gives you a great feeling obviously. But we are focused. It’s a really hungry and humble team, believe me. It’s nothing that we have done yet and there’s still a lot of things to improve. That’s the direction we’re taking.”
Arsenal have not been crowned champions since 2004 and Arteta dampened suggestions he could lead them into this season’s title race. “I’ll leave that to you guys, honestly,” he said. “We just started and we’re really happy with where we are. We understand that you can’t control it because emotion is related. The table says what it says and we don’t look at that.”
He was delighted, however, with a team he said had returned “ready and focused” from the international break. “We know what’s at stake in this game, it’s a bit more than three points,” he said. “You have to play with that passion and that coolness in your head. I think the players did that brilliantly today.”
A less effusive Antonio Conte was left to rue Emerson Royal’s second-half red card. The Spurs players were unhappy that Anthony Taylor dismissed him for his challenge on Gabriel Martinelli, seemingly hoping for an intervention from VAR, although Emerson had invited the decision by connecting with his opponent’s ankle using his studs. After taking pains to say he would not comment on the incident, Conte suggested the standard of officiating in the Premier League must improve.
“I comment on the VAR decision because I think without the monitor and the video it is really, really difficult to get the best decision,” he said. “There are images and I think everybody can think what is the best decision, but I don’t want to comment on this.
“In England it is very difficult because there isn’t the same line. Sometimes you see a situation that could be a red card, instead it is a yellow card or no yellow card, sometimes you see a situation that is a yellow card and you see a red card.
“In Italy, they go on Thursday and stay together for three days to work together, to look at the video and try and improve. I don’t know if they do that in this country but it would be a good idea because the level is so high and we need the level of the referee and VAR the same. The Premier League is a really high level and every part of this situation has to be top.”