Following an abject 3-0 loss at Manchester City in the first game of the top-flight restart in midweek, the Gunners travelled to Amex Stadium on Saturday looking to bounce back and appeared on course for a much-needed victory when record signing Nicolas Pepe curled home a wonderful strike with just over 20 minutes to play.
Arsenal – whose injury crisis deepened when they lost goalkeeper Bernd Leno to a serious-looking knee injury following a collision with Neal Maupay before the interval – capitulated thereafter, however, with Lewis Dunk’s goal and a last-gasp effort from Maupay sealing relegation-battling Brighton’s first league win of 2020.
Speaking after the game, head coach Arteta refused to use the Leno incident as an excuse for his players’ under-par display and instead rued a lack of attention and competitiveness in crucial moments.
“I think we did a lot of things today to win the game comfortably, but we haven’t competed like you have to compete in the Premier League,” he said.
“We gave first goal away and we lost a few important duels afterwards, so I think it’s all our fault.”
Arteta added: “[It’s] not about the characters, it’s about how you compete in a Premier League match and it’s for 100 minutes in this case. It’s for every ball, it’s for every action and the moment you lose attention, the opponent is going to push you.
“It’s not the first time it has happened and if you want to win football games consistently at this level, it’s a must and it’s a non-negotiable.
“I think they competed for large parts of the game, but in crucial moments when you don’t, you pay the price and that’s it. It’s all my fault obviously because I’m the one that has to make sure they do.”
Back-to-back defeats leave Arsenal eight points adrift of the top four ahead of their third successive away fixture at Southampton on Thursday night, though that gap will reach double figures if Chelsea beat struggling Aston Villa on Sunday.
With their hopes of a Champions League return fading fast, Arteta admitted he faces a huge challenge in lifting spirits among his playing squad for the challenges ahead.
“Absolutely [it will be hard to do],” he said. “I think when you lose two games in a row that hardest thing to do is to lift the players up and believe again in what we are doing.
“The context of the last game against Man City and this one is completely different.
“I am much more upset today because I know the accident that happened against City but the accident today was provoked by us and it’s unacceptable.”