In the space of two weeks, Arsenal have gone from being the bookies’ favourites to snatch fourth place to wondering where the next win might come from.
Defeats to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton have been a jab-left cross-right uppercut combo to our Champions League aspirations and Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham are next in line to deliver a knockout blow.
It’s a tough time for our manager and his young cohorts. After months of hard-fought victories, we appear to have run out of puff and ideas.
Understandably, Mikel Arteta doesn’t want to criticise players whose confidence has taken a pounding but he also knows he needs more from them if there’s to be any chance of qualifying for Europe.
After yesterday’s 1-0 defeat at Saint Mary’s, he told Arsenal.com: “I want to be behind my players because they deserve that, because I know what stage of their career they are and what they need and how they try every single day.
“To come here and play the way they played and lose the match, this is football. It’s not like basketball where you have 20 shots and the opponent has one, you’re always going to win and in football that doesn’t happen.
He added: “I’m very frustrated and disappointed because when you see what happened on the pitch, to concede and lose the football match I think it’s very difficult scenario to imagine.
“We tried to do everything that we could have done in the best possible way, I can not fault the attitude of the players.
“I think it’s the opposite, the way they played as well but at the end of the day you have to put the ball in the net in the opponent’s half and we didn’t for various reasons. One, because their keeper was exceptional and because the amount of situations that we created, we needed more quality to finish them off.”
If West Ham beat Burnley on Sunday, only three points will separate the four sides chasing the final Champions League slot. All have stuttered in recent weeks and know they can’t afford to do so again.
Arteta noted: “It’s another game gone and the situation hasn’t changed much but again I said it weeks ago, it’s about us, how we perform, the results that we have to pick up and the rest will come.”
That starts at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. His players have pulled a rabbit out of the hat for him a couple of times against the Blues in recent years – the FA Cup final win and the 2020 Boxing Day success at the Emirates – and he’s in desperate need of another.