‘Unacceptable’: Arsenal double down on Arteta referee and VAR criticism

Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St. James's Park, Newcastle on Saturday 4th November 2023. (Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Arsenal backed Arteta's blast after the Newcastle game which was won by Anthony Gordon's controversial goal
Arsenal backed Arteta’s blast after the Newcastle game which was won by Anthony Gordon’s controversial goal

Arsenal have thrown their weight behind manager Mikel Arteta’s criticism of officiating in their defeat at Newcastle United on Saturday, urging action on “yet more unacceptable refereeing and VAR errors”.

Arteta labelled the decision to award Anthony Gordon’s winning goal after three separate video assistant referee checks “an absolute disgrace” and said he felt “sick” and “embarrassed” in a furious post-match press conference.

It is the latest storm related to VAR to engulf the Premier League and referees body PGMOL this season and prompted club chiefs to take the unusual step of releasing a statement doubling down on Arteta’s criticism.

“Arsenal Football Club wholeheartedly supports Mikel Arteta’s post-match comments after yet more unacceptable refereeing and VAR errors on Saturday evening,” they said on Sunday.

“We’d also like to acknowledge the huge effort and performance from our players and travelling supporters at St James’ Park.

“The Premier League is the best league in the world with the best players, coaches and supporters, all of whom deserve better.

“PGMOL urgently needs to address the standard of officiating and focus on action which moves us all on from retrospective analysis, attempted explanations and apologies.

“We support the ongoing efforts of Chief Refereeing Officer, Howard Webb and would welcome working together to achieve the world-class officiating standards our league demands.”

Gordon’s 64th-minute goal was checked for a potential foul and handball by Joelinton, offside and whether the ball had gone out of play earlier in the move, before being given.

“For more than one reason at least, it’s not a goal,” Arteta said. “And it’s too much at stake here. It’s so difficult to compete at this level. And it’s an absolute disgrace.

“I’ve been more than 20 years in this country and this is nowhere near the level to describe this as the best league in the world.”

VAR has come under increased scrutiny this season following several decisive blunders, most notably Luis Diaz’s infamous wrongly disallowed goal for Liverpool at Tottenham in September.

PGMOL bowed to calls to release the audio of that incident, which revealed that VAR Darren England had mistakenly thought the goal had been given and failed to intervene.

Arteta and Arsenal were the victims of another gaffe in February, when Brentford’s equaliser was allowed to stand despite an offside because VAR Lee Mason forgot to check.