Mikel Arteta has rejected suggestions Arsenal buckled under the pressure of the Premier League title race after allowing a two-goal lead to slip in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at West Ham but stated they must quickly develop a ruthless streak.
Arsenal went 2-0 up after just 10 minutes at London Stadium as Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard struck in a dominant start.
However, Arsenal failed to build on that advantage and West Ham winger Said Benrahma converted a 33rd-minute penalty to halve their lead before Bukayo Saka missed a spot kick of his own seven minutes into the second period.
Just 140 seconds later, West Ham were level as Jarrod Bowen guided a volley inside Aaron Ramsdale’s near post to leave Arsenal four points clear of Manchester City but, crucially, having played a game more and having to go to Etihad Stadium in 10 days.
This latest setback comes a week after losing a two-goal lead to draw at Liverpool.
Asked if the pressure of the run-in was affecting his players, Arteta told his postmatch news conference: “I would say yes if I see a team from the beginning playing [makes choking noise]; when I see a team playing with that flow, no.
“And at 2-0, it is not the pressure. It is that we really misunderstood what the game required in that moment. We started extremely well again, dominated the game, dominated the pitch and scored two beautiful goals.
“After that we made a huge mistake: to stop playing with the same purpose to score the third and the fourth and just think that we can play around them and maintain the result. It looked too easy and in that moment we gave them hope, and credit to West Ham, they took it. They went extremely direct — from a long throw to a corner — and we really struggled to get out of that game.
“If you don’t defend your box the way you should, then you have to do many things better for longer periods. Then there is a moment when you can go 3-1 up and probably the game is over. But this is part of football. My worry is after 2-0 we had that huge mistake and didn’t understand what the game required in that moment.
“We need that ruthless mindset to go in that moment and kill a team — when a team is there for the taking, you have to kill it. Today we haven’t done it and when you don’t do that in the Premier League, at some stage, it is going to turn around they are going to have some momentum. Then you have to defend, for example, the second goal better than we did otherwise you don’t win the game.
“The last thing we want in our brains is to not have the confidence that after having the possibility to kill the game, we don’t do it. That’s the next stage. When you are there, you have to do it. You have to play with the same purpose or more and not give them anything.”
Odegaard stated errors crept into Arsenal’s game at 2-0 up and permitted West Ham back into the match.
Asked by Sky Sports how they lost their lead, Arsenal’s captain said: “A lot of the same things to last week, started well but then we stopped, allowed them to play on their qualities. We gave them the game they wanted, we gave them hope, and that’s on us. We have to look forward now.
“We started to do a lot of stupid things on the ball, we allowed them to play on the long balls.”