Arsenal manager Unai Emery insisted he was “proud” of his players after they were humbled for the third time in a week, losing 3-0 at Leicester on Sunday.
The Gunners conceded three goals in three successive top-flight matches for the first time since 1967 in defeats to Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester leaving their top-four hopes hanging by a thread.
Nevertheless, Emery praised his players for performing well despite the embarrassing nature of the goals. He blamed the first-half red card shown to defender Ainsley Maitland-Niles for the latest loss.
Maitland-Niles was booked for a shove on Ben Chilwell before collecting a second yellow card for a foul on James Maddison at the King Power Stadium.
– ‘Conditioned the result’ –
“I don’t agree with the first yellow card,” said Emery. “I don’t think it was a yellow card.
“I think maybe the first yellow card is not a foul. It was just seven minutes into the game and I don’t agree.”
He added: “The players worked very well. I am proud of them. With one player less they continued our gameplan, first to be together and more defensively strong and in attacking moments to take our chance.
“But the first goal has conditioned the result and we were better on the pitch with one player less. But with some corners and some actions on the pitch they scored the second goal and finished the match.”
Youri Tielemans was allowed an unmarked header to open the scoring for Leicester in the 59th minute from a Maddison cross.
Then Arsenal were exposed twice by Jamie Vardy in the closing stages, once from a goal-kick that was missed by the entire Gunners backline and then for a stoppage-time tap-in after Ricardo Pereira was allowed to stroll unchallenged into the penalty area.
Emery, however, refused to offer analysis on the nature of the Leicester goals and pointed instead to the red card as the pivotal moment of the game.
“Our game-plan was to be strong and our defensive moments and in attacking moments to take our chances attacking their back four,” he said.
“We started very well, with good positioning and defensively not a lot of problems.
“They were with the possession but the idea at home in football is to control possession and we were good on the pitch.”
He insisted: “We wanted to grow in 90 minutes and to take our opportunities, being competitive in 90 minutes and being strong in our mentality.
“But with the second yellow card it gave us a lot of problems to control our gameplan and be efficient. We continued with one player less but knowing it was going to be difficult. That has conditioned the result a lot.”
Arsenal face a critical week for their Champions League ambitions with the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday followed by a must-win fixture at Brighton next weekend.
They will assess Mesut Ozil early in the coming week after he missed the Leicester game with a foot injury.
“We have two things — next week against Valencia in the Europa League, we have big ambition and motivation in this competition,” said Spanish boss Emery.
“It’s a semi-final and it’s going to be difficult also, then we play Brighton and we want to win this match. At the beginning of the season we knew it was going to be difficult and today it is the same.”