‘We know what we have to do’ – Mikel Arteta refusing to give up on top-four bid
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has insisted he does not have to tell his players what is at stake as they attempt to revive their fading Champions League hopes.
The Gunners entertain relegation-threatened Everton on Sunday knowing even victory might not be enough to secure a top-four Premier League finish after Monday night’s costly 2-0 defeat at Newcastle.
That left them two points adrift of arch-rivals Tottenham, whose superior goal difference means a draw at relegated Norwich, barring a cricket score at the Emirates Stadium, will be enough to keep their neighbours at bay.
A defiant Arteta said: “We will still have five days to prepare for that match. We know what we have to do.
“There’s not a lot of words that are needed after the performance.”
Arsenal were undone by a spirited Newcastle side backed by a vociferous home crowd celebrating a recovery which has ensured the sides will meet again in the top flight next season. That was far from certain when head coach Eddie Howe took the reins in November last year.
The depleted visitors, who arrived in the north-east still smarting from Thursday’s 3-0 derby defeat at Spurs, were out-played from the off and never looked like emerging with a victory which would have taken them back above Antonio Conte’s men heading into the final round of fixtures.
Ben White’s 55th-minute own goal – he stood in for the suspended Rob Holding on his return from a hamstring injury – and a second from Bruno Guimaraes five minutes from time did the damage, but the Magpies could have won even more comfortably.
However, asked if he had been let down by his players, Arteta said: “No, I am the maximum responsible [person] all the time.
“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.”
England international Bukayo Saka was at a loss to explain the performance, but equally refused to accept the seemingly inevitable while Champions League qualification remains a mathematical possibility.
Technically it’s not over, we can still do it.
He told the club’s official website: “Overall there is huge disappointment and frustration. I just can’t believe how we performed.
“We lost all our duels, we lost all the second balls, we didn’t play out well, just overall disappointment in every aspect.
“But come Sunday against Everton at the Emirates, we’re going to be there to win, and hopefully things go our way. That’s all you can do from now.
“Technically it’s not over, we can still do it, but we’ve missed out on two big opportunities to put ourselves in a good position, so it’s just a shame.”
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