Arsenal are entering a crucial period in their season but have lost their last two matches
Mikel Arteta has fired a warning to his Arsenal squad ahead of the clash against Leeds United, stating they face a season-defining period.
The Gunners host Marcelo Bielsa’s side at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon, before travelling to Rome and Athens for the Europa League Round of 32 clashes against Benfica – which fall either side of a Premier League clash against runaway leaders Manchester City.
Arsenal’s hectic month is completed with a trip to face Brendan Rodgers’ high-flying Leicester City, which ramps up the pressure upon Arteta’s side.
With the Premier League campaign disjointed, the chances of securing European football via a league finish this season are slim and disappointing results from those two upcoming fixtures would wipe away any outside chance of rejuvenating their continental push.
That likely puts the Europa League as make or break for Arsenal in their push to play European football next season, with victory in the competition handing the Gunners a long-awaited route back into the Champions League.
However, Arsenal face a bizarre situation in the competition as COVID-19 quarantine rules mean both legs of their double-header against Benfica will be played at a neutral venue.
As a result, Arsenal face a daunting 6,000 miles of travel in just 11 days and Arteta has warned his squad that the next two weeks could define their season.
“It’s going to be crucial. We don’t have any margin now in the league and, in the Europa League, they are knockout games, so the moment you don’t do what you have to do you are out,” he said ahead of the tie against Leeds.
“First of all, we have to improve our position in the league dramatically, and in order to do that we have to win a lot of football matches. How many will depend on what the opponents do because at the moment it’s not in our hands.
“We need to get into Europe, into a really, really close situation where we can compete for that ‘trophy’, because that’s going to be key as well to see where we can compete in which competition next season.”
Arsenal’s challenge is increased by the fact that they have won back-to-back matches just twice this season, in the Premier League and FA Cup, with Arteta aware improvements are necessary.
“We have talked since the start of the season about what we are lacking is the consistency to do it every three days and keep winning and winning and winning.
“We had a really good patch in the last seven games when we won a lot and just drew one and didn’t concede many goals, and then we ended up losing the last two games in an incredible way.
“The margins when you win and lose games are really thin and, when it’s down to you, you cannot make those mistakes.”
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