If Arsenal are to have any chance of qualifying for Europe next season, Mikel Arteta needs to stop the rot that has crept in since injuries took a grip on his squad.
After three consecutive defeats, his young squad is on the ropes and things don’t get easier from here on in. Tomorrow, the Gunners head to Chelsea, on Saturday Manchester United visits the Emirates and then we face a tricky trip to West Ham. It really is ‘squeaky bum time’ as that puce-faced Scot used to say.
So how difficult has the last couple of weeks been for the boss and his young squad?
“Very difficult,” he said. “At this club it’s only about winning, and they were three different games, but with the same outcome.
“We are extremely unsatisfied with that, we know that, we’re hurting, but at the same time we know how we lost and what we merited from those games are not reflected in the amount of points that we taken.
“We have to understand why we lost those games as well, but there is nothing to look back on. Everything is still to play for, our ambition is still intact, our desire is still intact. We know the challenge ahead and we’re going to go for it.”
In some respects, Arsenal’s situation could be a lot worse right now. Thanks to those clubs around us in the table also fluffing their lines in recent weeks, we remain within touching distance of the top four.
Of course, to turn our Champions League dreams into a reality, we need to start scoring goals. While the Gunners have dominated the last two games and created plenty of clear cut chances, we’ve struggled to put the ball in the net and it’s clearly taking a toll on the confidence of the collective.
“Our efficiency in front of goal, and what the teams have produced in our own box with the amount of chances they created, there is no relationship there at all,” reflected Arteta.
So what does he do to lift the mood? “[Be] Very clear with why we have lost the games and then give them more support and confidence and be behind them because it is what they need and what we are going to need altogether between here and the end of the season.
“When things go well it’s easy. It’s all about ‘we’ but when things don’t go that well, maybe it’s about ‘him’. I hate that and I’m the first one to try to apply myself to do that, defend our players, protect them and let them be who they’ve been because they’ve been pretty good to be fair.”
If you’re looking for a good luck omen ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge, according to Opta, Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 11 midweek (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) league meetings with Chelsea (W5 D6), since a 2-1 home defeat in December 1974.
Now that’s a record to cling to.