Mikel Arteta has conceded Arsenal will be “in big trouble” if they fail to transform their fortunes through a season-defining festive schedule.
The Gunners crashed out of the Carabao Cup 4-1 to Manchester City on Tuesday as Arteta’s side slipped to a sixth defeat in 11 in all competitions.
London rivals Chelsea are the visitors to the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day – live on Sky Sports – before the Gunners see in the New Year with trips to Brighton and West Brom, and Arteta admits it is a make-or-break run of games.
“We have to turn it around, there is no question,” he told Sky Sports. “If we don’t, we are in big trouble, so this is the moment that is going to decide our season.
“We do [have the tools to turn things around] because I see how much the players try and what they are trying to do, but at the moment a lot of strange things are happening in every game and that makes things really difficult.”
Arsenal fell behind to City in farcical circumstances as Gabriel Jesus punished non-existent defending to head the holders into the lead with barely two minutes on the clock.
Alexandre Lacazette equalised just after the half-hour mark with a header of his own, but Arsenal’s hopes evaporated on 54 minutes when goalkeeper Alex Runarsson spilled Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick into his own net.
From there on, City were merciless, as goals from Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte wrapped up a comprehensive victory that leaves Pep Guardiola’s side two wins away from a fourth consecutive Carabao Cup triumph.
“It’s a disappointing night,” Arteta said. “We started the game and conceded after two minutes, a really soft goal. After that, in the moment we are in, and against this opponent, it is difficult.
“We got back in the game, started to grow and scored a really good goal and we had a spell of 25 minutes where we were the better team.
“After that, we conceded the second goal the way we did and against this level of opponent, they punish you and make life really difficult.
“This is a really hard one to take when you consider how the game went. The reaction the team had against this level of opponent was good, but when you give the goals we gave away, it makes the game impossible.”
Asked for his thoughts on Runarsson’s error, the Gunners boss added: “He hasn’t played a lot of games for us, he’s adapting to the league and this is it. We all make mistakes; we have to support him.
“I thought about starting Bernd Leno, but he has played a lot of minutes and needed some rest. We want to give opportunities to other players; Alex has done well in the other games and these things happen in football.”