Arsenal one of 12 members of Super League, but pulled out just 48 hours after it was announced amid fan fury; Mikel Arteta says owner said sorry to him and players on Wednesday; Arteta on fans: "They sent probably the strongest message that has even been sent in football"
Thursday 22 April 2021 17:40, UK
Mikel Arteta has revealed that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke and chief executive Vinai Venkatesham have apologised to him and the players over the club's plans to join the collapsed Super League.
On Sunday night, Arsenal announced they were one of 12 clubs - along with the rest of the Premier League's 'Big Six', plus Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan - intending to form a new midweek European competition.
However, the plans were met with fury by supporters, leagues and governing bodies across Europe, and by Tuesday night, Arsenal and the other five English sides had withdrawn from the league.
In an open letter, the Arsenal board told supporters that "we made a mistake, and we apologise for it", and when asked if the same message had been passed on to him, Arteta said: "Yes, starting from Vinai, the ownership and everybody that is involved in the process.
"All of them with the right intentions to defend the club, and put the club in the best possible position for now and for the future. But accepting that the way it's been handled has had terrible consequences and that it was a mistake.
"I have to really respect that when people have genuine intentions to do the best for this football club but, if it's not the right thing to do, they can apologise. I think the players, staff and everybody working at the club has to accept that and move on."
Arteta was then asked whether Kroenke - or his son Josh Kroenke, who is a director at Arsenal - had directly apologised to him, and the head coach said: "Yes, absolutely.
"Obviously they are the maximum responsible to run the football club. They apologised for disturbing the team, not having the capacity or ability to communicate in a different way earlier and explained the reasons why.
"And they passed on a message to the players. That's all you can ask for, and I have to accept it.
"I spoke with them yesterday [Wednesday]. As always, every time we need something and every time something is happening, they are straight away ready to act, to give the answers they can and give the support they can."
Arteta said he was unaware of the club's plans to join the Super League until just before the news broke. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel have said they found themselves in similar situations.
"I found out just a little bit before the news was leaked, and then everything was completely out of control and the world reacted in a really unified manner," said Arteta.
"So not really time to think about it, reflect or evaluate because by the time it was out, a big tsunami came onto it and basically killed it.
"Vinai spoke to me and explained a little bit what was happening just before it was announced. He was very clear and transparent with me.
"I understand the reasons why we could not know. Obviously we were not involved in the decision."
On Sunday, a joint statement from the English, Spanish and Italian FAs and leagues, plus UEFA, threatened the 12 Super League clubs with expulsion from their domestic competitions and suggested their players could be banned from representing their countries.
Supporters across Europe voiced their opposition to the plans, and Chelsea's decision to withdraw - which was quickly followed by the rest of the Big Six - came amid protests from their fans outside Stamford Bridge.
There are suggestions of a similar gathering outside the Emirates Stadium on Friday ahead of Arsenal's game against Everton, and Arteta credited football supporters with putting a stop to the Super League with their "massive statement".
He said: "I think this has given big lessons, and it shows the importance of football in the world. It shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans.
"When the fans have to come out and talk, they've been really loud and clear, and they sent probably the strongest message that has even been sent in the football world.
"We have to listen to them and in 24 hours they killed the project. That's a massive statement for the history of football."
On Tuesday, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola hit out at the Super League plans, saying the concept of clubs automatically qualifying for the competition because they were founding members was "not sport".
Arteta was assistant to Guardiola before becoming Arsenal head coach in December 2019, and when asked whether he agreed with his former boss' assessment, said: "I think the ability to participate has to be earned, and that has to be earned on the pitch. I will always defend that.
"The main reason why we are here is because we have the uncertainty of winning and losing. We can dream about winning against anybody, earning the possibility to be in a better place, and as well the risk of being in a worse place. That keeps everybody alive."
With the Super League now off the table, Arteta and his players must turn their attentions to Everton's visit on Friday, live on Sky Sports.
Eighth-placed Everton are one place and three points about Arsenal, with a game in hand, making a victory crucial for the Gunners' hopes of qualifying for Europe again next season.
While Arteta admits events of the past few days came as a "big shock" to his squad, he says they must not be used as an excuse when the Toffees visit north London.
"We had a conversation with them, Vinai spoke in front of all of them and explained what happened," he said. "Hopefully they are in a good place. Obviously it was a big shock for all of us, a lot to read, a lot of opinions.
"But it's not an excuse - we have a game tomorrow and this is the most important thing. Let's go and beat Everton."
Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol
There was a frantic race to be first to quit the European Super League (ESL) on Tuesday.
Manchester City were the first club to have serious doubts, quickly followed by Chelsea. There was a feeling that there was a small reputational benefit to be gained from being first to quit.
Chelsea were the first club to let it be known that they were leaving just before 7pm. At the same time, Man City were telling the ESL they were withdrawing and that was confirmed at 7.20pm. By then, the whole project was doomed.
The other clubs knew it was all over when Chelsea and City quit and during a series of phone calls it was agreed that Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham would announce they were leaving at 11pm.
There is a lot of anger and recrimination inside the breakaway clubs and the majority of it is directed at the small group of owners and chief executives who tried to push this through. There are a lot of unhappy managers and a lot of unhappy players.
I've been told that it will be very difficult for some of the people who were behind this to go into meetings with the other 14 Premier League clubs because the trust has gone. Apologies and statements aren't going to be enough.