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28 May 2023

Arsenal racing against time, says Arteta

Thierry Henry of Arsenal tangles with David Wheater of Bolton Wanderers during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Arsenal at the Reebok Stadium on February 1, 2012 in Bolton, England (GETTY IMAGES)


Mikel Arteta admits Arsenal must improve quickly, or face up to the prospect of missing out on a top four finish for the first time in 16 years.

The Gunners have been a fixture among the Premier League's leading group ever since they finished fifth in 1996.

But having dropped to seventh after the latest round of fixtures, Arsene Wenger's side now face a testing challenge if they are to maintain their impressively consistent run and ensure a place in next season's Champions League.

The midweek draw at Bolton at least ensured the North London club avoided a fourth successive league defeat.

But that was scant consolation after Wenger's team had been presented with the opportunity to reduce the gap to fourth-placed Chelsea to three points.

Now Arsenal must attempt to rediscover winning form when Blackburn Rovers visit the Emirates Stadium desperately seeking points to boost their relegation battle.

The pressure is undoubtedly building on the manager following his failure to make a major signing in the transfer window, despite funds being made available to him.

And Arteta, the Spanish midfielder, acknowledges the time has come to step up the pace to avoid losing further ground to Chelsea as well as Newcastle United and Liverpool who lie fifth and sixth respectively.

"It is going to be tough to finish in the top four but it depends on us," Arteta said. "We have got the talent and the quality in the side to do it but we have to show it day by day.

"I am confident because we train together every day and I know how good we are but we have to show it every day, not every two or three weeks.

"It is more about details to score and make the game much easier for us. It depends on small details. We had the chances to score against Bolton and we didn't. You are not going to get 15 chances to win a football game and nowadays when you get it, especially away from home, you have to take it."

"I am sure that Chelsea will start a good run and we have to do the same and win games like we did a month ago. But I am still positive. There are still a lot of games to play and hopefully we can get that done."

Blackburn were similarly wasteful during the home defeat to Newcastle and their cause wasn't helped by the absence of leading scorer Yakubu through suspension.

The striker will again be missing but Rovers can at least head south knowing they are unbeaten in their last three away games having won at Manchester United and drawn at both Everton and Liverpool.

Manager Steve Kean is adamant, however, Chris Samba will not feature despite being available for selection.

The influential centre back infuriated his manager when he insisted he was not in the right frame of mind to play for the club after handing a transfer request.

The January deadline passed with the defender landing a move but Kean has made it clear he is unforgiving towards the Congo international.

"I'm prepared to say he's fit and he's available but he's not in the squad for the Arsenal game," said the manager.

"I'd rather speak about people who are available to play against Arsenal. Chris has trained well today but he's not going to be in this squad."