Mikel Arteta admitted Granit Xhaka “overstepped the line” after the midfielder was shown a straight red card for grabbing Ashley Westwood by the throat during Arsenal’s 1-0 loss to Burnley.
The midfielder was initially shown a yellow card for the incident, but referee Graham Scott changed his decision to a red after consulting the pitchside monitor at the Emirates Stadium.
Xhaka’s petulance proved costly for Arsenal, who had appeared in the ascendency early in the second half following a poor first-half showing, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 73rd-minute own goal eventually consigning them to their seventh Premier League defeat of the campaign.
When asked if Xhaka’s behaviour was unacceptable in his post-match press conference, Arteta said: “Absolutely.”
He added: “He’s made a mistake, clearly, that has cost us.
“We were prepared, knowing this was a game we clearly had to win, but with 10 men it makes it much more difficult. You give the opponent a chance and you end up losing on a set-piece.”
Arsenal were fortunate that Xhaka’s midfield partner Mohamed Elneny was not also sent off after he appeared to raise his hands to the face of James Tarkowski moments before Burnley’s decisive goal, and Arteta feels his players must show greater discipline.
“I think being unacceptable doing that action is because the players are in a moment where they are so willing to do more, to fight more, to show how committed they are, to be alive in the games, that on this occasion Granit has overstepped the line,” he said.
“There is another action with Mo that I haven’t seen but looks similar. We cannot make that mistake because that’s the wrong approach to what we are trying to do.”
The final whistle at the Emirates Stadium was met by jeers, but Arteta insisted the 2,000 fans in attendance were behind the team during the game and thanked them for their support.
“The players are hurting but thank you so much to the fans because I think they were tremendous, behind the team with the support they were giving, knowing how difficult it’s been for all of us in this competition in recent weeks,” he said.
“I think they reacted like that because they saw how the team tried, how they went about it, how much passion they put into the game [despite] our limitations.”
He went on to defend Arsenal’s performance, adding: “A team that is struggling, normally you don’t see them playing the way they played today and the way they played against Spurs against the leaders.
“But again, we lost the game. We gave the opponent a chance and they scored.”