Mikel Arteta says Arsenal’s beleaguered players need to master their self-doubt and that there is no room in the squad for anyone who is “dragging you back”.
Arsenal seek respite from a catastrophic Premier League run when they host Manchester City in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday night and their manager wants to see “fighters” rather than “victims” as they look to turn the tide. Asked whether he has enough of the former, he cautioned against negativity paralysing his side.
“Yes we do, but some of them can doubt in any moment because when you find yourself in this situation you are tempted to go to the other side and start to say: ‘Oh, we are scoring own goals, we cannot play with 10 men, we don’t have the crowd and the referee made these decisions. I’m sorry but we don’t need any of those,” he said.
“There are people who are very contagious and can transmit a certain level of energy. You always have some on one side, some in the middle and some completely on board. Then you have to drag as many people as you want to your side, to the fighting side. And the ones who are not interested or cannot do it, they have to stay behind because if not they are dragging you back.”
Arteta produced a raft of statistics that he said showed Arsenal are largely doing enough to win games. They controlled possession in recent defeats to Tottenham, Burnley and Everton, although the lack of clear chances is an overarching theme.
“When you look at the perspective of how we are losing football matches and how we are where we are, it is pretty incredible,” he said. “Last year we won against Everton with a 25% chance of winning, you win 3-2.
“Last weekend [against Everton] it was a 67% chance of winning and a 9% chance of losing, and you lose,” Arteta added. “And 3% against Burnley and you lose, 7% against Spurs, and you lose. If you are constantly in the 60s and 70s long-term, you are going to win many more matches and this is what we have to try to do.”
Despite their lack of creativity, Arteta bemoaned the fact that Arsenal have become less clinical. “Our conversion rate and our finishing quality is what is letting us down at the moment because with the rest it’s what it should be to win many, many football matches,” he said. “It worked before and we were winning because our finishing quality was through the roof.
“What has been sustaining the team in the last two seasons as well is that our conversion rate and expected goals was much higher than it was supposed to be. Now it is much lower. We need to completely change that straightaway and find ways to score goals even when the opportunities are not that clear.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s reduced goal haul is one reason Arsenal have stopped over-achieving. The captain will miss the City game with a calf injury and is being assessed before Chelsea’s visit on Boxing Day.