Mikel Arteta has admitted to feeling the psychological strain of Arsenal’s dire predicament and accepts the next three matches will determine whether the club are dragged into a relegation battle.
Arsenal are 15th in the Premier League, after taking five points from their past 10 games and, following the Boxing Day visit of Chelsea, they go to Brighton on Tuesday and West Brom next Saturday – teams currently two and seven points below them.
“The next seven to eight days are going to be crucial to see where we’re going to be heading to in the Premier League,” Arteta said, when asked directly about relegation.
The manager and his players appear trapped in a bubble of bad results and ever-decreasing confidence, with no way of breaking out to boost morale with a team-bonding session, for example, because of coronavirus restrictions. The latest setback came on Tuesday when Arsenal lost 4-1 at home to Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup.
“At the moment, to keep the team together and alive, to be a team rather than a group of players, takes a lot of energy,” Arteta said. “You have to get them to be positive to each other, to not start blaming any external factors or any individuals when things are not going well. The best thing to do when you are like that is to have the possibility to do things outside our site. Get them together, change the environment, but at the moment we can’t do that.
“The players are really putting in a lot of energy and enthusiasm not to lose what we are building. But it takes a lot of energy because when you are losing games, every game is a lot of weight on your shoulders.
“People are suffering, we are hurting and you have to get back, be the leader again and try to push the players. The players respond and are excited again for the game. That’s happening but the best medicine is to win against Chelsea.”
Arteta then delivered his latest rallying cry, although it has long since passed the point where it is actions on the pitch that matter. “We have to stand up and we have to pick up the points,” he said. “Let’s draw a line and move forward. Whether it’s bad luck or these things that are affecting our results, they have to change dramatically.”
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