Arsenal still have vague hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League. As they prepare to face Norwich City on Wednesday, their margin for error has entirely disappeared.
Entering the season’s restart, Arsenal held hopes of reclaiming a Champions League spot. In reality, those aspirations were always a little ambitious. The Gunners sat several places and points off the pace and had showed little ability to reclaim their place in the standings. Nevertheless, fans were mostly looking up upon the Premier League’s return.
After the first three matches, those hopes have only been further dashed. Opening defeats to Manchester City and Brighton were disastrous to their intentions, while Chelsea, Manchester United and Wolves all resumed in excellent form.
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Entering the current gameweek, it left Arsenal six points behind Wolves and United and the Champions League places. Wolves then won at the weekend and United dispatched Brighton on Tuesday night. Mikel Arteta’s side are subsequently nine points off the pace before their home match against Norwich City on Wednesday. It is as much of a must-win as you are ever going to get.
Arteta was asked about his team’s prospects in his pre-match press conference, specifically in relation to how needy a victory is against Norwich. He said:
“I think every game is going to be a must-win game from now, because we have a few teams ahead of us. So the margin for error is minimal and as well, at home, we have to be very strong if we want any chance of finishing in the European places.”
The two defeats to restart the season have left the team with no margin for error. Arsenal must essentially win all of their remaining matches to even give themselves a chance of a top-five finish, and that especially includes matches against Wolves, Spurs and Leicester City.
With such a crucial period looming, Arteta said the team is more confident after two victories against Southampton and the Sheffield following the opening defeats:
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“After winning it’s always much more positive and happier, obviously. We had a really difficult start in terms of the fixtures – playing four games away from home – so it was always going to be a challenge. We’re happy to win the last ones and the mood around the camp is much better.”
That confidence will be necessary. Arsenal face a massive week in which they play Wolves at the weekend, Leicester next Tuesday, and then a huge North London Derby five days later. If they want to even be close to the top five at the end of the season, they must win at least three of their next four matches, including avoiding defeat to Wolves and Spurs.
There is no margin for error for Arteta and his players, starting on Wednesday. And now that they know it, it is down to them to deliver under pressure.