Bernd Leno says Arsenal still have a chance to qualify for the Champions League by finishing in the top four even though the club sit 11th in the table at the halfway stage.
The Gunners have never collected so few points (23), won so few games (5) and conceded so many goals (27) at this point in a Premier League season and need a drastic improvement under new head coach Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard takes charge of his first game on Boxing Day when we travel to Bournemouth before Chelsea and Manchester United visit the Emirates.
Leno believes the fact we still have so many games against the big sides means we can dictate our own destiny.
“Of course, because I think there are still many games,” said the keeper, when asked if a top four finish was realistic.
“We play against all the top six. We have a lot of opportunities to win games against them. We still believe. It is in our hands.
“We have to show mentality, we have to play good football and I think then we will have opportunities.
“When we just speak about tactics or quality or what was in the past, it doesn’t matter. I think the only way is that we work hard, that we get back our strong mentality and then I think I am confident we can reach our target.”
Leno’s optimism is, in part, driven by Saturday’s clean sheet against Everton; our first in 15 games. While the game was drab and we barely created any chances to win, the fact Arsenal defended as a collective – something called for by interim boss Freddie Ljungberg and Arteta, who gave the players a brief pep talk pre-game – was a positive for the German.
“It was completely different to other games, but you can see only with intensity, with mentality, we didn’t concede a goal,” he said.
“We didn’t let them have chances, like Freddie said and the new manager. I think the lineup was very good because everybody was fighting for the team and we showed great mentality. Unfortunately, we didn’t score, but I think at the end of the day we can be happy with our performance and especially with our mentality.
“We didn’t let them have any transitions like in the other games. The distances [between our defenders and their attackers] were much closer and I think this is the only way you can play, because the Premier League is too strong to have one, two or three players that don’t defend. This is the only way we can play and we can be successful.”
Arsenal head to Bournemouth with Hector Bellerin in contention to make a return at right-back. Unfortunately, Calum Chambers, man of the match at Goodison Park, will be suspended meaning Sokratis, who missed the last game through a suspension of his own, will likely partner David Luiz. In the absence of injured duo Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac, today linked with a moved to Serie A, Bukayo Saka is the favourite to continue at left-back.