Mikel Arteta has hit back at Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez following his complaints about Arsenal’s approach to their pre-season clash on Wednesday night.
The Gunners won an enthralling friendly meeting with Barça at SoFi Stadium in California, running out 5-3 victors thanks to a brace from Leandro Trossard and further goals from Bukayo Saka, Fabio Vieira and new signing Kai Havertz.
Despite being a ‘pre-season friendly’, the game was full of hefty tackles and fierce duels. In fact, there were 34 fouls throughout the 90 minutes, with 22 of those fouls being committed by Arsenal players.
Speaking to the press after the game, Xavi revealed he had complained to Arteta about their approach to the game, saying: “I said to Mikel at the end of the game, it was like a Champions League tie with the intensity they put in. It was not normal for a friendly, but I understand everyone wants to win. For us, it was our first friendly and we went into it off the back of loads of players having had a bug.”
When asked about Xavi’s comments, Arteta hit back and explained to the press how the game became almost boiled over: “At the end of the day, soccer belongs to the players.
“We’re playing in front of 70,000 people and as soon as the game starts they’ll rebel against the coaches as soon as the game starts and they’ll do what they want. As soon as there’s the first foul of the game they’ll start getting intense and they’ll start playing.”
The win over Barcelona was Arsenal’s second of their pre-season tour of the USA. The Gunners will now face off against Monaco in the Emirates Cup on Wednesday 2 August before the season-opening Community Shield clash with Manchester City the following Sunday.