Mikel Arteta urged his Arsenal side to “take the bullets” as Arsenal face mounting criticism for a terrible season to date and defiantly promised to lead by example, insisting: “My chest it’s here, hit me guys. “
Arteta is under pressure after the Gunners began their worst season since 1974. Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Burnley means they have lost four consecutive league home games for the first time in 61 years and are only five points above the relegation zone in 15th place.
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It’s an extraordinary fall from grace after Arteta secured an FA Cup triumph in August to cap his first season in charge, but he has been looking to rally his team ahead of Wednesday’s Southampton visit.
“I feel the pressure all the time,” he said. “When we got them [good] spells, everything was not nice. There have been a lot of tough times in the last few months of last summer, believe me. It wasn’t all nice and easy and fun.
“But obviously when you win you create a different mood and then the pressure once you win is to win again. And the pressure will always exist.
“I prefer that pressure when you always think about winning and going to the next trophy. But this is our reality now and we have to face it. We have to face it by being brave, fighting and nobody gives up or anything because it’s not the time to hide, it’s time to put the face and body into play.
“At the moment, I’m sorry, but we have to take the bullets. We are not winning football matches and you have to put your chest there and hit me, because you have the right to hit me because I’m not winning. What else can I do? , work harder and try to do things better and improve, that’s how we have to deal with things in my opinion.
“It’s natural [criticism comes to the manager], I accept it, it’s part of the job. When no results are achieved at the end of the day, it is the manager who has the utmost responsibility to deal with it. That’s why I accept it.
“You can say what you want to explain but in the end you have to win football matches and this club is too big to accept so many losses in the last few weeks. So my chest is here and you beat me guys.”
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Technical director Edu has publicly defended Arteta’s work and the 38-year-old himself has no illusions about the scale of the task he inherited when his predecessor Unai Emery was fired last November.
“What I know, and we all knew, when I took the job here, it wasn’t a quick fix at all,” he added. “There were too many things that needed to be resolved, too many big decisions to be made, many changes that are happening and this takes time. Are we satisfied with the results? Absolutely not, I am the first to be angry and frustrated because I also think we deserve a lot more than we have at the moment, but it’s our fault and we need to look to the future, and also know that the present is also very, very important in this moment.
“I want to think we’re in a blip. The way we’re losing football games makes me believe it, but we have to start winning because otherwise you start falling and falling in the standings. Obviously that’s not the case. We want to be in.”