Mikel Arteta admits his Arsenal team are behind schedule in chasing his objectives for the season and has urged their returning home support to back them fully as they seek to end a torrid autumn spell.
Arsenal sit 14th in the Premier League table and, after their 2-1 defeat to Wolves on Sunday, have lost three consecutive top-flight games at the Emirates. It is a far cry from the exuberance of Arteta’s first half-season in charge, which brought an FA Cup win and optimism that a slumbering club had finally turned a corner. Asked whether he had expected them to be higher in the division after 10 games, the manager said there was no escaping the truth of their position.
“I expected to be a little bit further than we are in the table, and a bit further with what we’ve done in certain games where we could have deserved more,” he said. “But the worst thing [to think] is: ‘What if?’ This is our reality. In the end we can find excuses but I hate to do that. We are here, let’s get out of this situation, let’s face that challenge and let’s move on.”
Arteta stated he and his players must take responsibility. “It’s not acceptable and we have to change it,” he said. “We can say, ‘Yeah but the referee did that, he didn’t score, we should have done that’, but this is where we are.”
Arsenal will be the first Premier League club to welcome back supporters on Thursday when 2,000 fans watch them host Rapid Vienna in the Europa League. The match is of scant consequence to Arsenal, given they have qualified from Group B and will almost certainly win it. But the fans’ presence marks a milestone and Arteta wants their help in turning the season around.
“I expect them to be very supportive of the team, because in the end it’s the only way to get out of this situation,” he said. “It’s not a secret. When you see the top teams, the stable teams that win trophies, how[fans] act towards the team, name me one where they go against the team. I haven’t seen it, so the only way to do it is with them and we need them.”
A north London derby at Spurs awaits on Sunday and Arteta said he will “see who responds, [and] who does not” in times of adversity. David Luiz should return for that game after sustaining a cut to the head in Sunday’s horrific collision with Raúl Jiménez, which left the Wolves striker with a fractured skull.
Arsenal were criticised for letting the centre-back continue until half-time, although there is no suggestion they did not observe concussion protocols. Jiménez is still under observation in hospital after surgery, but tweeted on Wednesday that he “hope[s] to return to the pitch soon.”
Arteta believes short-term substitutes could be a solution when there is doubt about a player’s condition. “Maybe it is a moment where we can think, to give [medical staff] a little more time and use a temporary substitution,” he said.