Mikel Arteta says he won’t let negativity infect the Arsenal dressing room despite the reaction to his side’s disappointing opening day defeat to Brentford.
In the aftermath of Friday’s trip to west London, everyone from presidents to pundits stuck the knife into the Gunners for both the performance on the night and the state of the squad coming into the new season.
Only later did it transpire that the Gunners were severely depleted by a Covid outbreak and that the club had spoken to the Premier League about the match being postponed.
Given the extraneous circumstances leading up to the defeat, the arrival of a couple of new players and the prospect of playing football at the Emirates in front of a capacity crowd, the boss struck an upbeat note about the club’s prospects.
Facing the media ahead of Sunday’s game with Chelsea, Arteta was asked if he’d had to raise morale in the camp this week.
“Putting things into perspective, we had an incredible 48 hours before that match,” he said.
“It created a big uncertainty and probably an unprecedented Arsenal line up. We tried everything that we had in that game, but it didn’t work out.
“We knew the consequences of that externally, what it was going to mean, but internally the reaction has been incredibly positive.
“It’s one day of Premier League football, we have the whole season ahead of us, and any negativity that’s going to try and surround this football club is going to be out of these walls.”
A second defeat this weekend would certainly ramp up the pressure before a trip to face champions Manchester City, but Arteta maintains that whatever happens, he’s looking at the bigger picture.
“We knew that [we had a difficult schedule] from the beginning. You have to play 38 games against all the teams at the end of the season and it’s the perception, the pressure and again, the negativity.
“I just want people that are constructive around me. I know that people have the intention to bury us and try to criticise us, but we are not interested in that.
“We have a lot of positivity and a lot of energy, new energy that is coming up. My full focus is on that and finding a way to beat Chelsea because we can, because we’ve done it.”
The boss also had a message for the fans. “In moments when there are people and there is certain negativity around the place, you need your fans and your supporters more than ever,” he said.
“They’ve always been with the team and I have no doubt that on Sunday they’re going to be right behind the team. If there is one thing that the team needs, it’s exactly that.
“If they really want to help the team, there’s not going to be a better medicine for them than to feel [the fans] very close with the right energy and supporting them and being behind them and the team is going to try their best.”
He added: “I can’t wait for the game to be there and to have our fans back after 18 months without them at full capacity. This is what we are here to experience those moments and hopefully give them what they deserve.”