Following a devastating 3-0 home defeat to Brighton, Mikel Arteta expressed his frustration and issued an apology to the Arsenal supporters, as their hopes of clinching the Premier League title were virtually extinguished.
Second-half goals from Julio Enciso, Deniz Undav, and Pervis Estupinan led Brighton to a well-deserved victory at the Emirates Stadium.
Manchester City now only need one more win from their remaining three matches to secure their championship reign. Should Arsenal lose to Nottingham Forest, City could be crowned champions on Saturday night.
With a four-point gap and a game in hand, Pep Guardiola‘s team holds a significant advantage over the Gunners, who have struggled, winning only two of their last seven matches.
“A really different feeling to the feeling that we all had last Sunday (at Newcastle) when we felt proud and we felt that we really did what we needed to win in certain moments. Today is completely the opposite,” Arteta admitted.
“We have to apologise to our people, especially for the second half.
“What I have to accept first is what happened in the second half and digest it.
“After that until it’s mathematically over… the second position is secure. That’s not going to change. We have to digest and that will take a few days.
“At the moment it’s just frustration. The feeling that we gave the game away in the second half. We fought really hard to be in the position that we are in and today we were in a critical moment to keeping hoping and digging for that dream.
“When you have to play in these moments you cannot do what we did in the second half.
“Then we have to look. 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.”
Despite losing Gabriel Martinelli to an ankle injury early on, Arsenal started the game strongly against Brighton.
Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard had chances, with Trossard hitting the crossbar and Bukayo Saka missing the target from 14 yards.
However, Brighton capitalized on Arsenal’s missed opportunities right after halftime. Pervis Estupinan’s blocked cross led to Julio Enciso heading in his third goal of the season.
Despite making several changes, Arsenal couldn’t regain control as Brighton sealed the victory. Deniz Undav lobbed the ball past Aaron Ramsdale in the 86th minute, and Estupinan added a close-range finish in stoppage time to further extend Brighton’s lead.
A reflective Arteta added: “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.
Three wins in a row at The Emirates. 😏 pic.twitter.com/zn7L8DZWWv— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) May 14, 2023
“That’s something that has to be managed in the right way and after 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.”
It was a different set of emotions for Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi, who laughed off comparisons with Jose Mourinho after he wheeled off down the touchline to celebrate Undav’s goal.
He did insist, however, that nothing had been achieved by his sixth-placed side.
“Yes I am very delighted for the performances. I think we deserved to win but then really happy, really proud because the last five days were very difficult after the defeat on Monday (against Everton),” De Zerbi stated.
“We have 58 points and not enough to qualify for Europe.
“We have another four games, tough games, Newcastle, Southampton, City and last game Aston Villa and we have to fight to deserve to qualify because 58 points is not enough to play Thursdays next year.”