It’s been a horrible week to be an Arsenal fan as they’ve watched their side throw away the advantage they once held in the race for fourth place in the Premier League.
Back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Brighton in the space of six days has not only seen bitter rivals Tottenham overtake the Gunners in the table, but also leapfrog them in the odds on betting apps to claim a coveted top four finish.
Those defeats have not been the only issues Mikel Arteta has had to deal with, as he has been without key players in Kieran Tierney (knee), Takehiro Tomiyasu (calf) and Thomas Partey (thigh), and it has clearly impacted on the performance of his side of late.
The problem for Arsenal has been compounded by the fact that they simply don’t have the replacements to soften the blow of losing players of that calibre, which is something that shouldn’t happen at a club with aspirations of claiming a spot in the Champions League.
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Arteta Knows Reinforcements Are Required
Up until the Crystal Palace defeat, Arsenal had been in remarkable form, winning six of their last seven Premier League games and only title-chasing Liverpool were able to defeat them.
But, having lost Tomiyasu earlier in the year, Tierney went down with a season-ending injury just before the Palace game and was swiftly followed by Partey during the match itself.
With Alex Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah and Mohamed Elneny all out of contract at the end of the season, Mikel Arteta wasted no time in saying that he is expecting a busy summer of transfers at the north London club.
A statement like that makes it clear that Cédric Soares, Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga are not the long term solutions Arteta is looking for and that was evident in how they subsequently preformed against Brighton.
That loss, coupled with Spurs beating Aston Villa 4-0 away from home, has seen the Gunners drift out to 15/8 with William Hill in the Premier League’s top four betting. Meanwhile, Tottenham can be backed at 1/3 on Ladbrokes to grab fourth place at least this term.
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One man who agrees it’s time for Arsenal to spend is former Gunners legend Emmanuel Petit. However, he has been impressed by the job Arteta has done with the club so far in his three years at the Emirates Stadium.
“Since Mikel Arteta arrived at Arsenal, he's been steady,” Petit told bookmakers.co.uk when asked if he had faith in the manager of the Gunners.
“He still has a lot to do, but he has done a lot of good things already. He has found his first XI and now the players appear to be a happy group.
“They seem to understand the way Arteta is asking them to play, but after the Crystal Palace game I believe he said he wants seven new signings for next season, and I completely agree with him.
“Arsenal are doing everything they are capable of at the moment. With this team Arteta has some quality, but not enough to compete with Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. But he cannot perform miracles either.”
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Fans Are Right To Worry About Arsenal’s Top Four Credentials
West Ham and Manchester United’s Premier League top four ambitions now seem to be fading fast thanks to recent defeats to Brentford and Everton respectively, that leaves Arsenal and Tottenham to scrap it out for the position.
They both may yet be denied a Champions League place should West Ham somehow manage to win the Europa League. However, looking at their respective fixtures, you’d have to say it’s advantage Spurs in the scrap for fourth.
Not only do Tottenham have a three-point (and 10-goal) lead over their arch-nemesis currently, but Arsenal’s fixture list sees them having to play the likes for Chelsea, Man United, West Ham and Spurs themselves in their remaining eight fixtures.
The reality is that Antonio Conte’s men could be over the hill and gone by the time the sides meet at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 12 and their current odds on new bookmakers reflect that.
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Asked about Arsenal’s most recent defeats, Petit was in no mood to spare his former team from criticism.
“It was the worst week Arsenal have had this season since the very start of the Premier League when they lost to Brentford and Chelsea, and then followed that up by losing to Manchester City,” said Petit.
“The timing of these defeats has been very bad. I was very disappointed with how Arsenal played against Crystal Palace, and I was expecting a reaction from the players against Brighton. But Brighton were the best team on the pitch at the Emirates last Saturday.
“Arsenal woke up too late in the game and only came alive in the last 15 minutes. They have missed two great opportunities in their last two games.”
However, Petit still feels the Gunners will have a big say in the battle for fourth yet, although the current injuries in the squad have made him a little wary of tipping Arsenal to get the job done.
“I still believe Arsenal can reach the top four come the end of the season,” said the Gunners icon.
“They have the chance to play Chelsea, Manchester United, West Ham and Tottenham before the end. Arsenal's best games this season have come against the top teams in the Premier League, so they can do it!
“But, they have lost Kieran Tierney, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Thomas Partey and they don't have a big squad in terms of quality to pick from. When you look at the bench after those players there is not an awful lot of options.
“If those guys were all fit, I would say Arsenal would definitely be in the top four, but I'm very worried that they are all injured.”