London (AFP) – Mikel Arteta will hope the Arsenal board absorb the defence his former boss Pep Guardiola put up for him after Manchester City thumped the Gunners 4-1 in Tuesday’s League Cup quarter-final.
Languishing 15th in the Premier League after losing five of their last seven games — their worst start to a season since 1974-75 — Arsenal are in crisis.
They are just four points above the drop zone with their last relegation coming in the 1912-13 season, when, as Woolwich Arsenal, they finished bottom of the old First Division.
Things could get worse as their next match is a daunting clash at home to high-flying London rivals Chelsea on Saturday.
“We have to turn it around,” said Arteta.
“If we don’t, we are in big trouble. So that is the moment which is going to decide our season.”
Arteta has been in charge just over a year after replacing his compatriot Unai Emery having impressed as assistant to Guardiola for three years.
The 38-year-old Spaniard was a popular choice as unlike Emery he was seen by fans to be imbued with the spirit of the club having captained them during Arsene Wenger’s tenure.
FA Cup success last season — beating Chelsea — and getting the better of champions Liverpool in the Community Shield built up his stock with the board and fans.
However, that has proved to be a false dawn and the credit he built up has fast eroded.
Luck has a tendency to go against you when you are on a bad run and Tuesday’s game reflected that.
City retook the lead due to an error by goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson and City’s third goal would probably have been ruled out for offside if VAR was used in the competition.
Arteta will also wait anxiously on news on impressive teenage Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Martinelli, who created their goal on his return to action but then limped off.
– ‘Fighters in my team’ –
The Arsenal manager would long for one of his defenders to be as resolute as Guardiola was when talking about him.
Guardiola experienced a trophyless season in his first term in charge of City in 2016/17.
However, he has gone on to win two Premier League titles, three League Cups and one FA Cup.
“I know his incredible quality as a human being and especially as a manager, how he is involved in everything,” said Guardiola.
“It’s just a question of time and he will do well.
“Football changes in one week so quick.”
Guardiola said Arteta’s ability is not in question and was as responsible for City’s success as he had been.
“I can speak about my experience alongside him — one of the most incredible, successful teams in English history we had, and he was part of this success,” said Guardiola.
“It would not be possible without him. To create something like this you need time like I had in my first season.”
The loss of form of leading striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played a major role in their decline.
The team captain scored 29 goals in all competitions last term but has found the net just four times this season.
The Gunners have scored just 12 goals in their 14 league games this term.
The sense of gloom surrounding the club is reflected by a report this week in The Daily Telegraph.
The board have inserted clauses in the contracts of several players, meaning they would be obliged to take 25 per cent wage reductions if they are relegated.
Chelsea were the last of the so-called big six to be in such a poor position, when they sacked Jose Mourinho in December 2015 with the team just a point above the relegation zone.
Unlike Arsenal they had not inserted such clauses.
Arteta could draw little comfort from Tuesday’s fixture save that having called on his players to be fighters and not victims earlier in the week he says he got his answer.
“On the basis of what we have shown tonight against difficult opponents, I have fighters in my team.”
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