Mauricio Pochettino insisted he was trying to keep the peace after the Tottenham manager raced to join a brawl involving players from both teams during his side’s explosive 4-2 defeat against Arsenal on Sunday.
A fiery north London derby boiled over in the first half at the Emirates Stadium after Tottenham’s Eric Dier celebrated his equaliser with an inflammatory gesture.
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had already angered Tottenham fans by celebrating in front of them after his 10th minute penalty.
It was reported on social media that bananas were thrown onto the pitch towards Aubameyang from the Tottenham section during his prolonged celebration in an incident that could lead to a Football Association investigation.
Dier added to the volatile atmosphere by holding his finger up to his mouth to gesture to Arsenal fans to be quiet after his goal.
Arsenal substitutes Stephan Lichtsteiner and Aaron Ramsey took exception to Dier’s antics, prompting a bout of pushing and shoving involving numerous players at the side of the pitch.
Pochettino sprinted down the touchline as the feud continued, but the Argentine was at pains to point out he was only trying to keep his players from losing their focus.
“In that moment I was trying to put calm in our players. There was a fight but I didn’t know what was going on,” Pochettino said.
“Sometimes there are these situations. I don’t know if it was the celebration of Dier that upset some people.
“The team had scored and the energy was on our side, so I wanted us to be clever.”
Arsenal manager Unai Emery, a good friend of Pochettino, agreed with his counterpart that it would have been better if both teams had kept their composure.
“In that moment, the players have very big emotions,” Emery said.
“They were fighting a lot, but we need also to be calm.”