Mikel Arteta admits Arsenal are facing a make or break two weeks of the season with qualification for Europe one the line.
After consecutive defeats to Wolves and Aston Villa, the Gunners’ tough run of fixtures continues on Sunday when Leeds United visit the Emirates. A Europa League double-header then sandwiches a clash against league leaders Manchester City and before the month is out, we also travel to Leicester who are hot on the heels of Pep Guardiola’s men.
It’s a daunting run, especially as consistency has been hard to come by on the domestic front.
“We’ve got some big games coming up, really quick, I think it’s every three days,” noted the boss in his weekly press conference.
“It’s what we’ve talked about since the start of the season, that what we are lacking is the consistency to do it every three days and keep winning, winning and winning.
“We had a really good patch in the seven games when we won a lot of games and just drew one, didn’t concede goals. Then we end up losing the last two games in an incredible way. It is what it is.
“The margins between winning and losing games are really thin and when it’s down to you, you cannot make those mistakes.
“They [the next two weeks] are going to be crucial. We don’t have any margin [for error] in the league and the Europa League. The moment you don’t do what you have to do you’re out. The level of attention and the level of performance are going to be really high and really demanding. We have to face the challenge and go through them.”
In normal circumstances, having a week to chew over a defeat wouldn’t be particularly welcome. But this is no ordinary season and the chance to spend valuable time with his players on the training ground following last weekend’s one-nil defeat at Villa Park is something Arteta has embraced.
“I think we took the situation as it came and tried to make the most of it, tried to use the week in the best possible way,” he said.
“We analysed a lot of things that we’ve been doing, things that are working, things that need to improve. We’ve put some training sessions together that we’ve not [previously] had time to do to develop in our way of playing and how we’re going to compete in games to win football matches.”
It remains to be seen whether the Gunners can salvage anything from a season that threatened to completely implode before Christmas. Currently 11th in the table, a top four finish seems incredibly unlikely but qualifying for Europe via the league or by winning the Europa League isn’t inconceivable.
Asked what success for the rest of the campaign looks like, Arteta said: “First, we have to improve our position in the league dramatically. To do that we have to win a lot of football matches.
“How many will depend on what our opponents do because at the moment it’s not in our hands. We need to get into Europe and into a close situation where we compete for that trophy. It’s going to be key to seeing where we can compete in which competition next season.”