'I love them even more' - Arteta not mad at Arsenal players for Everton slip-up as title race 'not going to be a rose pathway'
- Arsenal fell to 1-0 defeat
- Gives Man City title race opening
- Arteta stood by his players after loss
WHAT HAPPENED? A James Tarkowski header was enough to down the Gunners in a spirited performance from the home side on Sean Dyche's first game in charge. Arsenal, meanwhile, missed the opportunity to pull eight points clear of Manchester City at the Premier League summit. Arteta underlined that his players had his backing, though, claiming that he "loves them even more" after defeat.
WHAT THEY SAID: "Today I love them much more than a week ago, a month ago, six months ago," Arteta told BT Sport after the match. "It is easy to be next to someone when they're winning and playing well, but now is the moment to be next to them because they fully deserve it, and I am so proud to call them my players."
When asked about City potentially closing the gap on the league leaders, the Arsenal boss reiterated that the title race was far from over: "This is not going to be a rose pathway. This is going to be tricky, difficult, and we're going to have to react to disappointment. We're going to have to dig in and play better than we did today, that's for sure."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Saturday's defeat is only Arsenal's second in the league all campaign, handing Everton their first victory since mid-October. While Dyche will be buoyed by an instant reaction from his side since his appointment, Arteta will have to channel his player's disappointment ahead of a huge match against Manchester City on February 15.
IN THREE PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT FOR ARSENAL? Before that City fixture, though, Arteta will be hoping for a response from his team when they host Brentford in the league next Saturday.