Two defeats in a week may have seriously damaged Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top four but Mikel Arteta maintains there are more “twists” yet to come.
The Gunners are currently three points behind fourth-place Sp*rs with a game in hand but know they can’t afford another slip up against Southampton on Saturday, especially with tricky showdowns with Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham set to follow before the month is out.
“Every game [is important], but obviously when you lose, the next game takes more importance and we know that,” said Arteta ahead of the trip to Saint Mary’s.
Heading into the recent Interlull supporters were optimistic about how the season’s finale was shaping up but dropped points, coupled with the form of our neighbours has taken a serious toll on morale.
Asked if there’s more pressure to secure a place in the Champions League because of the rivalry with Sp*rs, the boss continued:
“I think it’s related to our history and we want to be not fourth, but third, second or first, and that’s what we have to do.
“That’s always within every supporter and anybody who has any connection with the club, so the moment you see the team doing better and having better aspirations, your tendency is to get excited about it and I think that’s the right reaction.”
Thanks to a recent big swing in goal difference and the fact that Sp*rs will host the Gunners in the penultimate week of the season, the bookies currently have Antonio Conte’s men as the more likely side to squeeze in behind Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Arteta played a very straight bat when pressed on who is more in control of their destiny.
“Whoever manages to win more games and play better,” he said.
“There’s going to be some twists still for sure and the pressure and situation is going to keep changing between now and the end of the season. We have to be focused on us and what we have to do.”
He added: “We are trying to change things, but not too many things because there are a lot of things that are working.
“But there are details that are letting down the team – it’s not that we are conceding 15 or 20 shots and getting hammered in games. We are conceding one or two shots, and we are getting penalised, and we haven’t been efficient enough in a lot of things that we should do better.”
If Arsenal weren’t at the races last week, tomorrow’s opponents suffered an even worse ignominy; being turned over 6-0 on home turf to Chelsea. Arteta says both managers will be expecting a reaction.
“I think you’re going to see two teams that are hurting because we are hurting after we lost the last two games, and we want to perform and win,” he said.
“I’m sure that after their home defeat they had they will want to do the same.”