I have fighters – Arteta confident in Arsenal squad as decisive Christmas looms

By Patric Ridge 23 December 2020 16
I have fighters – Arteta confident in Arsenal squad as decisive Christmas looms

Mikel Arteta is convinced he has the fighting spirit in his Arsenal squad which will enable the embattled Gunners to turn their dismal domestic season around.

Arsenal have not won a game outside of the Europa League since November 1, when they defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

The FA Cup holders have lost five of their last seven Premier League matches and on Tuesday were dumped out of the EFL Cup by Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola's side winning 4-1 at Emirates Stadium.

It was the first time Arsenal have conceded four times at home in the competition since November 1998, when they lost 5-0 to London rivals Chelsea, who were also the last team before City to win four successive away games against the Gunners in all competitions, with the Blues doing so between 1960 and 1965.

With Arsenal 15th in the Premier League table – just four points clear of the relegation zone – Arteta now has to gather his players for fixtures against Chelsea, Brighton and Hove Albion and West Brom between Boxing Day and January 2.

Gunners manager Arteta conceded the run will likely decide Arsenal's league campaign, but insisted he has full belief in his players.

"It's a hard one to take considering how the game went. This level of opponent, when you give the goals away it makes the game impossible," Arteta told Sky Sports.

"A lot of strange things are happening in every game and that makes things really difficult.

"We have to turn it around round – there is no question with the fixtures we have it's going to decide our season.

"On the basis of what we have shown tonight against difficult opponents, I have fighters in my team. Yes, I have fighters."

One player who may embody the fighting spirit Arteta spoke of is Gabriel Martinelli, who made his first start of the season after returning from a long-term knee injury.

Martinelli returned as a substitute in Saturday's defeat to Everton and looked lively in the first half against City, having one attempt and setting up Alexandre Lacazette's equaliser.

However, Martinelli sustained a blow to his shin and, despite trying to battle on, had to be taken off in the 49th minute, though Arteta suggested the injury was not serious.

"It was a really bad kick on his shin, it was swelling up and he could not continue," Arteta told a news conference.

"I think Gabi has a unique energy and a way to transmit his passion for the game. I think he plays the game in a different way to any other player, we can't compare him.

"What we have to say is it's great to have him back. To bring that spirit and that fight, and to play against this opponent the way he did it in that first half, I think that it's something to be really proud and happy with."

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