LONDON — The one excellent news for Arsenal after their humiliating 3-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur within the North London derby was that, regardless of the celebratory scenes among the many dwelling supporters on the finish of the sport, Champions League qualification stays within the fingers of Mikel Arteta and his squad.
It most likely did not really feel prefer it as Gunners captain Martin Odegaard led his humbled teammates in the direction of their supporters to apologetically thank those that remained till the top, however the arithmetic are clear — if Arsenal win their ultimate two video games away to Newcastle United on Monday and at dwelling to Everton six days later, the Emirates Stadium will host Champions League soccer subsequent season for the primary time since 2017, no matter what Spurs do of their dwelling finale towards Burnley and concluding match at Norwich City.
“The frustration should not take over the nice alternative of the 2 video games we’ve got in entrance of us,” Arteta mentioned after Thursday’s loss. “We won’t wait to play on Monday, that is how I really feel, and that is all I wish to say.”
But when Arsenal are to beat Spurs to the ending line within the race for fourth, they have to overcome a check of nerve and character to realize their aim and we nonetheless do not know whether or not this Arsenal aspect possesses the required qualities to try this. And with centre-half Rob Holding set to overlook the Newcastle sport by way of suspension after being despatched off for 2 yellow playing cards — each for fouls on Son Heung-min — and Gabriel nearly sure to be sidelined with a hamstring harm sustained within the ultimate levels towards Spurs, Arsenal have essential defensive points to deal with.
Arteta can patch up his defence, nonetheless. The Arsenal supervisor can deploy Granit Xhaka at centre-half and hope that Ben White‘s hamstring harm is recovered sufficiently for him to begin at Newcastle. The previous Brighton defender was on the bench at Spurs, however Arteta selected to not danger his health with the sport a misplaced trigger by halftime. However whereas Arteta can reshuffle his group, outcomes this season recommend that he’ll journey to St James’ Park with no thought whether or not his gamers will rise to the problem towards Newcastle after which Everton.
Will they do what they did at Chelsea and West Ham United in latest weeks by responding to the strain with a assured, attacking efficiency that delivers three factors or will they revert to the panic-stricken aspect which misplaced successive video games towards Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton final month?
That query, in a nutshell, has been Arsenal’s drawback for too lengthy and it pre-dates Arteta’s arrival as supervisor, following the dismissal of Unai Emery, in Dec. 2019. They blow cold and hot and their inconsistency and fragility is why they now need to go to Newcastle and win. These three defeats towards Palace, Brighton and Southampton — video games Arsenal ought to have received — might but see them miss out on Champions League soccer as soon as once more.
Odegaard’s choice as captain in latest weeks when common skipper Alexandre Lacazette is out of the beginning line-up highlights the plain shortcomings in Arteta’s aspect — an absence of seasoned expertise in key areas. Arsenal nonetheless lack a participant, or gamers, who can sense hazard in video games and know when to change the tempo to swimsuit their very own goals. Xhaka has too usually confirmed himself to be too reckless to guide the group correctly, whereas Lacazette, when he performs, is simply too targeted on his sport to guide others.
So the captaincy has fallen onto the Odegaard’s proficient shoulders, regardless that the previous Real Madrid midfielder is simply 23 and nonetheless making his means within the senior echelons of the sport. The Norway worldwide is an excellent participant, anyone who can be a central determine in Arsenal’s future, however he isn’t but skilled sufficient to guide a membership akin to Arsenal.
But Arteta could have seemed round his squad and seen that he had few different choices for the captaincy and that was borne out throughout the efficiency towards Spurs, the place the likes of Holding, Gabriel Martinelli, Cedric Soares, Bukayo Saka and Odegaard wanted a wiser, older head to information them by way of a tough expertise towards a group which had way more top-level expertise.
Spurs, in distinction, have been filled with gamers who’ve carried out on the highest degree for years — Son, Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Eric Dier all confirmed their expertise on this sport, whereas coach Antonio Conte has additionally been across the block way more instances than Arteta.
Arsenal’s drawback shouldn’t be distinctive — Manchester United are one other main membership struggling to search out the precise characters to knit the group collectively — however Arteta has a promising group of rising gamers who simply want some on-field steerage to assist them take the membership again to the place it must be. However lacking out on Europe’s high membership competitors might ship Arsenal round their vicious cycle for an additional spin. It could deny them the chance to recruit high gamers with Champions League cash — a potential move for Metropolis’s Gabriel Jesus may very well be hit in the event that they find yourself within the Europa League — whereas the likes of Saka and Martinelli might immediate curiosity from the likes of Liverpool and Metropolis, who might supply elite-level soccer and the monetary uplift that comes with it.
So it’s a huge week for Arsenal. They’re in a greater place than a 12 months in the past, after they completed eighth and missed out on Europe altogether, however the precedence of returning to the Champions League is now within the stability after the defeat at Spurs. The chances are nonetheless barely in Arsenal’s favour, although, so now’s the time to silence the doubters by proving they’ll ship when the warmth is on.