Following Tottenham’s win over Burnley, Mikel Arteta must guarantee that history does not repeat itself following Arsenal’s setback in the North London Derby.
Apart from the ultimate outcome on Thursday night, what will have worried the Spaniard and Arsenal supporters is the possibility of a central defensive crisis, which might jeopardize the club’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season.
Not only is Rob Holding suspended for Monday’s match against Newcastle United, but Arteta is also concerned about the fitness of his first-choice pairing of Benjamin White and Gabriel Magalhaes, after preferring not to risk the former against Spurs after the latter was substituted.
The Arsenal manager stated before of the trip to St James’ Park that he is doubtful whether he would be able to call upon one player, much alone both. When asked about the pair’s availability, he told the club’s official website, “It’s a good question.” “We’ll probably know more tomorrow (Sunday), so we wanted to extend this time as much as possible to understand how they’re recovering, feeling, and assessing them, and we’ll probably know more tomorrow.
“I could (guess), but I’m more likely to tell you whatever I want. Tomorrow will bring better answers, maybe not the ones we want until matchday, but better answers nonetheless.
Whether or not one – or both – of Gabriel and White are available to face Newcastle, Arteta is aware that his side must quickly recover from their loss in the North London Derby, as anything less than three points against Eddie Howe’s side will put Tottenham in pole position to finish fourth heading into the final weekend of the Premier League season.
The issue is that several of Arsenal’s 12 league losses have come in clusters this season. Three consecutive defeats placed them bottom of the standings in late August, followed by back-to-back defeats against Manchester United and Everton in early December, and then a three-game losing skid against Crystal Palace, Brighton, and Southampton last month.
In addition, after losing at home to Manchester City on New Year’s Day, the Gunners went winless for the remainder of January, losing in the FA Cup third round to Nottingham Forest and then being knocked out of the Carabao Cup semi-final by Liverpool.
Arsenal, to their credit, has recovered from those league losses to put themselves in a situation where victory over Newcastle and Everton will secure a return to the Champions League. However, with only two games remaining in the season, they cannot afford to lose back-to-back games.
Spurs have surged above Arsenal in fourth place with a two-point advantage and a better goal difference following their 1-0 win against Burnley in the early kick-off on Sunday afternoon, putting pressure on their North London rivals to win on Monday night.
However, Arsenal has only won straight after losing in the league twice this season – the first time against Newcastle in the reverse fixture last November and more recently away at Aston Villa before the March international break – so Arteta’s task at St James’ Park is to ensure he elicits an immediate response from his players in order to reclaim the top-four initiative from Tottenham.