EPL

Mikel Arteta believes refereeing has improved since his outburst at Newcastle

By Sports Desk February 23, 2024

Mikel Arteta believes Premier League officiating has improved since his “strong” criticism of VAR following Arsenal’s defeat at Newcastle in November.

The Spaniard labelled the decision to allow Anthony Gordon’s goal to stand in a 1-0 loss at St James’ Park as “embarrassing” and a “disgrace”.

Arteta was later charged by the FA for breaking Rule E3.1 – which could have resulted in a ban but was instead cleared in December.

Arsenal now host Newcastle on Saturday looking to keep up the pace in the Premier League title race, as well as bounce back from their 1-0 Champions League last-16 first-leg defeat in Porto on Wednesday.

Asked if he had seen an improvement in officiating and VAR since his post-match rant – which was backed up by an official statement from the club – Arteta replied: “Well that is what we all wanted.

“That at the end the decisions are better and I think the last stats that came across show that there was a significant improvement and a lot of the decisions they were getting right, so hopefully that is the case and we continue to do that.

“I talked the way I felt. I was very straight and I did it in a way that was pretty strong but within the law because I didn’t get charged for it and I think that tells the story.”

After impressive away wins at West Ham and Burnley, Arsenal suffered defeat in Portugal on Wednesday night to leave their Champions League progression in the balance.

Porto did a great job of slowing the game down at the Estadio do Dragao, with 36 fouls awarded – a Champions League record this season – before Galeno hit a last-gasp winner.

Speaking after the game, Declan Rice said that Arsenal need to improve their “savviness” while Arteta admits his players need to develop their level of streetwise.

“Yes, we certainly can develop a lot of things and those experiences are really relevant to judge whether we were or we weren’t,” he replied when asked if the team need to improve their darks arts.

“I believed that they did a lot of things right. But managing games and things like that, we can still improve.

“But in a year’s time for sure we can still improve and we can improve in our build-up phase and we can improve in our restarts. We can improve in many areas.

“I don’t know if it is about (being) a bad guy but you have to be tricky, you have to be smart, you have to be streetwise and you have to try to take advantages in every situation. They know that.
 
“That’s a thing that has to be developed – you don’t have it, that’s for sure. The best teams, the best players, they have that.”

Arteta revealed that Thomas Partey could return on Saturday evening, with a number of other recent injury absentees pushing to be in contention.

Partey has not played since suffering a thigh injury in October, while Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko could also return – while Takehiro Tomiyasu is still out.

Arteta also offered up good news on Jurrien Timber’s return – the summer signing having been out since suffering a serious knee injury on his Premier League debut in August.

Asked if Timber could play again this season, the Spaniard said: “I really hope so. He’s doing really well.

“He’s been with some players on the pitch. He’s going to start to do some bits with us on the pitch in the next week or so.

“Then we’ll have to see how he’s doing, his confidence level, his fitness level. Hopefully the answer will be yes.”

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