Arteta: ‘Freedom of speech’ will improve refs

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has said “freedom of speech” is crucial for improving the standard of refereeing in football and confirmed he has responded to a charge from the Football Association (FA) following his outburst after the defeat to Newcastle United earlier this month.

Arteta had branded the VAR decision not to rule out Anthony Gordon’s goal in Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat at Newcastle as “embarrassing” and a “disgrace,” which caused the FA to respond by formally charging the Spaniard.

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He could face a touchline ban for his comments, however, at a news conference on Friday, Arteta said the freedom to talk openly about refereeing decisions was key to improving the sport.

“I think it is good that we are communicating,” Arteta said.

“We want to improve the game, all of us: Referees, managers, sporting directors, officials, you guys [the media]. We all want a better game, and to have a better game we have to have freedom of speech, respectfully and in a constructive way. We have to promote that, and if you don’t then you don’t get better.

“It is good that they [PGMOL] are talking in front of the media and explaining the situation. I think it brings clarity.”

When asked if he will change the way he speaks about referees in future, Arteta said he will continue to be himself.

“I think you have to be yourself. As a leader, you have to be authentic. You cannot be someone that you are not, and this is who I am,” he added.

Arsenal are third in the Premier League, a point behind leaders Manchester City, and face a trip to Brentford on Saturday.

Arteta confirmed goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale will start make his first Premier League start since September, with David Raya unavailable to face his parent club due to the conditions of his loan.

The Arsenal boss added he is hopeful that midfielder Martin Ødegaard will be available after suffering with a concussion and a hip injury, while striker Gabriel Jesus is also in line to play amid concerns over a hamstring injury.

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