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Mikel Arteta blames VAR and not pre-match protests as Arsenal lose to Everton

Thousands of Arsenal supporters marched on the ground to protest against the club’s owners.

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Mikel Arteta (pictured) was clearly annoyed by a VAR call against Nicolas Pepe (Michael Regan/PA)

Mikel Arteta (pictured) was clearly annoyed by a VAR call against Nicolas Pepe (Michael Regan/PA)

Mikel Arteta (pictured) was clearly annoyed by a VAR call against Nicolas Pepe (Michael Regan/PA)

Mikel Arteta pointed the finger of blame at VAR and not pre-match protests from Arsenal fans as a Bernd Leno own goal saw his side lose at home to Everton.

Thousands of Arsenal supporters marched on the ground to protest against the club’s owners.

The action on the pitch did not rival the pre-match protests, which included fireworks that were missing for large parts of the Premier League match itself.

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Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno (right) scored an own goal (Michael Regan/PA)

Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno (right) scored an own goal (Michael Regan/PA)

Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno (right) scored an own goal (Michael Regan/PA)

But Everton would leave north London with all three points after goalkeeper Leno turned a Richarlison cross into his own net to give the Toffees a 1-0 win, their first away to Arsenal in 25 years.

The relationship between fans and owner Stan Kroenke, tumultuous in recent years, worsened further still when the Gunners announced on Sunday they had signed up as one of the founding members of a breakaway European Super League.

The ill-will towards the new competition was so fierce that, just two days later, Arsenal – as well as fellow Premier League sides Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – all withdrew from the plans.

An effigy of Kroenke hung from a lamp post as supporters let off flares and held up anti-Kroenke banners, chanting for his removal and also singing songs which would usually be heard in the stands as the protests continued after kick-off.

But Arteta refused to pinpoint them as a distraction for his players – who arrived five hours before kick-off to avoid any issues outside the stadium – and instead turned his ire to a VAR call which saw a penalty for a foul on Dani Ceballos ruled out for a narrow offside against Nicolas Pepe in the build-up.

Asked if the protests had impacted on the result, Arteta said: “No, we knew that was happening and that our fans wanted to express their feelings and we made preparations with that in mind and it is not an excuse.

“We lost the game because when we had to define the game in the crucial moments, we had no clear chances and then we concede an own goal and when we earned the right to score, with the decisions that was taken away.”

Arteta was clearly annoyed by the VAR call against Pepe and was bullish when asked if the decision had made him angry.

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“Obviously it has because this has been building up and enough is enough and today I have had enough,” he added.

“We have had many of them that no one explains and when they do explain they say ‘sorry, it was a mistake’ but unfortunately it is affecting a lot of people and it is affecting our job and most importantly our football club.

“I cannot understand it, I have been in football long enough and I watch it 10 times and still if I want to find it, I can’t find it.”

Everton moved to within three points of the top four with their first win in six across all competitions but manager Carlo Ancelotti insisted facing one of the would-be breakaway teams added no pre-match motivation to his players.

“We were motivated because it was a vital game. Maybe lose this game, we have lost a lot of opportunity to fight for Europe and that was the only motivation,” he said.

“We were a little bit lucky with the VAR decisions but with these three points we keep fighting for the rest of the season.

“We are in the fight for European positions and this is where we wanted to be at this time of the season.

“We are there and have six games until the end and have to do our best.”

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