Mikel Arteta admitted Arsenal had “won ugly” after their chances of securing a top-four finish in the Premier League were enhanced by a 2-1 victory over West Ham at the London Stadium.
Rob Holding and Gabriel struck from corners in each half of a hard-fought London derby as the Gunners climbed back into the Champions League places just hours after Tottenham had replaced them in fourth with a 3-1 victory over Leicester.
West Ham troubled Arsenal for long spells in defiance of the demands of their Europa League semi-final home and away legs against Eintracht Frankfurt either side of this clash.
“In England you say ‘win ugly’ and from my point of view we won ugly,” Arteta said.
“It was a massive win in very difficult circumstances because we caused ourselves problems, especially with our decision-making.
“But the team showed huge character, not giving up but to continue doing the right things.
“The way they fought and the way they understood how they had to manage the game in certain moments, it was phenomenal.
“I am extremely happy to see a team that has this capacity to find a way to win and to show the character they showed.”
Arteta denied that Arsenal are feeling the pressure of competing with Chelsea and Tottenham for the two available Champions League places.
“When you have to pass the ball from A to B under pressure or no pressure, this is an excuse,” he said.
“We were just sloppy at times and not precise and that led to a game we didn’t want to play in many moments.
“We recognise that and sometimes it happens. To play here against this team is not easy at all and we found a way to win the match.”
West Ham boss David Moyes was proud of his side, although he was disappointed with two decisions by referee Mike Dean.
The first was a possible handball from Holding in the build-up to Gabriel’s strike, while the second was a dangerous attempted tackle by Aaron Ramsdale on Jarrod Bowen that actually resulted in the Hammers goalscorer being booked for simulation.
“I thought we did a job on Arsenal. We kept them really quiet and I saw them against Chelsea the other week when they were terrific,” Moyes said.
“I’ve seen Rob Holding, it actually hits his arm. It’s not stopped. If the referee had seen it he would have stopped it, but I don’t think he’d seen it.
“The goalkeeper’s reckless and Jarrod gets there first. If Jarrod had left a leg there and taken a hit, I think it would have been a completely different story for us and Arsenal.
“It would certainly have been a free-kick for us, that’s for sure. And if there was a decision to make over whether it was yellow or red, I’m not sure.”