Mikel Arteta pushed back on suggestions that Arsenal should have been more active in the January transfer window even though his thin squad looks set to come up short in its quest for Champions League football.
A 2-0 defeat to Newcastle means a top four finish is now out of the Gunners’ hands heading into the final game of the season and with rivals Sp*rs facing relegated Norwich, few expect our neighbours to slip up.
While Arsenal can take credit for maintaining a challenge for so long, especially given the low expectations at the start of the season, it’s clear that last night’s insipid performance hit the manager hard.
Not only did his players look tired, but they were also bereft of ideas on the ball, positionally questionable and lost far too many battles all over the pitch. Would mid-season squad reinforcements have helped? Would any of the players allowed to leave have made a difference? Is it a wholly pointless exercise to indulge in this level of whataboutery?
“We have done what we can, and with what we were allowed to do, what we could do and the resources we had from the start of the season,” Arteta replied when asked if he had any regrets about not doing more in the transfer window.
“The team that we were able to build is what we were able to build and it’s the team that has taken us all the way here.”
It’s clear that Arteta is proud of the efforts of his players and stressed that if anyone is to blame for the late-season collapse, it’s him.
“No, I am the maximum responsible (person) all the time,” he said.
“If somebody has created an expectation this year that no one in this room probably would talk about at the start of this season, it’s those players that are there. I will always defend them. But tonight that’s a really, really difficult thing to do.”
While it feels like a line has already been drawn under this season, Arteta somehow needs to get his players up for the season finale against Everton on Sunday. Just in case of a miracle.
“Now we have to swallow everything, digest it and tomorrow is another day,” he said.
“We will still have five days to prepare that match. We know what we have to do. There’s not a lot of words I think that are needed after the performance tonight.
He added: “We need to win and we need a defeat from Sp*rs, and we know that in football, that’s always possible, and if anything happens, you have to be there in order to do that.
“Today, you have to put your head down, swallow all the disappointment that we all feel, hopefully, and tomorrow start again.”