Unai Emery praised his Arsenal team and Lucas Torreira for finding the goal that secured a 1-0 victory over Huddersfield after a frustrating afternoon which nearly cost them two points.
After Alexandre Lacazette harshly had a first-half finish ruled out and Shkodran Mustafi was denied a penalty, the hosts struggled to create chances and were at risk of failing to win at home against one of the Premier League’s struggling teams.
While their unbeaten run that now stands at 21 matches was rarely under threat, Arsenal had to demonstrate a self-belief and tenacity that had largely been missing until Emery’s appointment as manager.
Torreira’s 83rd-minute finish maintained the sense of momentum and, more importantly, their pursuit of a top-three finish, and the Spaniard said: “This is a very important result.
“They stopped (for) about nine minutes this rhythm – a lot of cards, fouls and time lost and we needed patience and we needed to win by waiting for our moment.
“The first half we had chances and one goal maybe and the second half the same. Our goal is coming later, but is giving us the deserved result.
“Torreira has quality and his interpretation on the pitch tactically and in attacking and defensive moments, he is very fast in his mind and his ability and he can do very good work in defensive moments and he can get into the box and score.”
The build-up to the game was dominated from an Arsenal perspective by the emergence of a video appearing to show a number of Gunners stars inhaling nitrous oxide.
The club said on Friday they would “remind players of their responsibilities” and, asked about the footage, Emery said: “You are speaking about the problem outside here, but for me, the club and outside, we can speak about that and no distraction.
“I don’t want any distraction – the players are focused on the match. We wanted it and we deserved to win.”
Arsenal also had Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi booked for diving against the Terriers.
Emery said: “I don’t want simulation for players.
“I want more rhythm in the match and the opposition can decide, when it has the ball, their rhythm and how they want to play, and it is a tough match for that, because the opposition stopped a lot in fouls.”
Huddersfield’s latest defeat leaves them in the bottom three. They were left feeling aggrieved when, at 0-0, they felt Alex Pritchard should have been awarded a penalty following a challenge from Hector Bellerin.
Manager David Wagner said: “I didn’t want to speak about the referee again.
“Penalty appeals – this is why I don’t like to comment. I did this last week and the week before, we always receive phone calls and they apologise after they’ve seen video footage.
“This doesn’t help, so I don’t like to give any comments on the referee’s decisions.
“But I can see the positives. I know we can keep our heads high. Defensively we looked very solid.”