* Leicester say Pearson focused on Arsenal fixture
* Pearson plays down McArthur spat (Recasts after Leicester statement)
LONDON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Leicester City said Nigel Pearson will remain in charge for Tuesday’s trip to Arsenal following widespread speculation the under-pressure manager had been sacked by the Premier League’s bottom-placed side.
A 1-0 home loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday, where Pearson grabbed visiting midfielder James McArthur by the throat in a bizarre sideline spat, had brought an end to the manager’s second spell in charge, British media widely reported on Sunday.
The Guardian, among others, added that Pearson also believed he had been axed only for the club to release a short statement late on Sunday night to rubbish the claims.
“Nigel remains the Club’s First Team Manager. Reports to the contrary are inaccurate and without foundation,” the struggling club said.
“Nigel, his staff and the first team squad are entirely focused on Tuesday night’s trip to Arsenal and our continued efforts to secure our position in the Barclays Premier League.”
Leicester have 17 points from 24 games and are four points adrift of the safety zone. They have won only two of their last 19 league matches and face Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City following the Arsenal fixture.
Poor form from the team has been coupled by sideline antics by Pearson.
Two months after receiving a one-match touchline ban and fine for arguing with one of his team’s supporters, Pearson has come under scrutiny again after Saturday’s incident.
McArthur, who nearly signed for the league’s bottom club in the close season before moving to Palace from Wigan Athletic, accidentally knocked Pearson over as he slid off the pitch into the technical area.
The manager reacted my putting his hand around the player’s neck as both lay on the ground and then tugged the Scotland international’s shirt when he tried to get back onto the pitch.
The pair were pictured smiling during the incident and Pearson, whose team suffered their third straight league defeat after Joe Ledley struck in the second half for Palace, said it wasn’t a big deal.
“I didn’t see that one coming if I am honest,” Pearson told Sky Sports. “But there you are. I was pushed to the floor and held my own.”
Asked why he held back McArthur back, the Leicester boss replied: ”Because he said something to me.
”I don’t have to reveal anything do I? I‘m more than capable of looking after myself.
”Listen, I’ve a lot of respect for the lad, he’s a good player. You know what happened in the summer in terms of him coming here.
”I‘m as disappointed as he was with how things panned out, but it was nothing to do with either myself or the player.
“But there’s no problem with the player. He’s a good player and a likeable lad,” Pearson added. (Reporting By Sam Holden and Ken Ferris; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Patrick Johnston)