The Gunners were pinned back for large periods of the game at the Etihad, with Raheem Sterling scoring the only goal in the 23rd minute.
Though the north London side created a few chances – most notably Bukayo Saka’s effort which was expertly blocked by Ederson – City were the dominant force.
Arteta admits his team were forced into a cautious approach in the first period, while they lacked the cutting edge in the final third to hit back in the second half.
The Spaniard said: ‘I think we had a real go because in the first half we had to defend deep and they were getting a lot of players behind the ball, false attacking midfielders, false nines, everybody really close to the ball without really creating much.
‘But it’s upsetting to see your team so deep.
‘I think in the second half we were really aggressive. We played in the opponents’ half, they had a lot of issues to get out of our pressure.
‘Listen, to get a win here everything has to go your way and you have to be so clinical and I think that was lacking today.’