Arsenal must not let standards slip ahead of planned summer overhaul
Even though Arsenal’s title race effectively ended last week, Mikel Arteta has tried to ensure it has been business as usual at the training ground.
Arteta has stuck to his routine of being the first to arrive at the crack of dawn, while the players’ schedule has stayed the same.
They had Monday off, as is typical the day after a game, and it was a chance for many of them to reflect on the painful 3-0 loss by Brighton.
The defeat all but brought an end to Arsenal’s hopes of winning the Premier League, as Manchester City are four points clear of them with a game in hand.
If Arsenal lose at Nottingham Forest tomorrow, the title is City’s. Even if the Gunners do win, Pep Guardiola’s side will be crowned champions should they beat Chelsea at home on Sunday.
Arsenal’s title charge may be over but the season is not, and Arteta cannot afford to let the campaign end with a whimper. Emirates Stadium was a sad sight last Sunday, with players collapsed on the floor and the stands half empty.
After a brilliant campaign during which Arsenal have overachieved, it would be wrong for the final memory to be disappointing results against Forest and Wolves, who they play next Sunday. A poor end to a season often filters into the next.
Arsenal are planning for a big summer overhaul, and the tone for the work ahead can be set in the final two games.
Arteta was clearly downbeat after Sunday’s loss, but it is not in his nature to sulk —and he will not allow his players to, either.
Former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva, who was part of the Invincibles squad that won the League in 2004, believes the players can learn from pushing City all the way.
“I hope they keep what they have experienced this year for the next coming seasons, to keep improving,” he told Standard Sport. “It’s not an easy task to maintain these competitive levels and uphold this mentality of trying to win every single week at such a high level.
“But once you are at Arsenal, you need to understand you have to keep striving for higher levels.”
Tomorrow’s game at Forest, however, is hardly the ideal one for Arsenal to look to bounce back. The City Ground holds bad memories for the Gunners — they have lost on three of their last five visits there.
The most recent of those came in the FA Cup third round last season, where Amazon’s All or Nothing cameras captured Arteta’s dressing-room rant at full-time.
This will be a very different side to the one that lost that day, but Arteta still has issues to solve. He is without Gabriel Martinelli (ankle), Oleksandr Zinchenko (calf) and William Saliba (back).
The absences mean Arsenal will need a completely new left flank, with Kieran Tierney likely to replace Zinchenko and Leandro Trossard primed to come in for Martinelli.
Arsenal may be a different team to last season, but Forest are too, and they are finding form as they bid to beat the drop. After a run of 11 League games without a win, they have won two and lost just one of their last four. A win tomorrow could secure their survival.
As Arsenal know from last season, the City Ground can be a hostile place, and that will certainly be the case tomorrow for Forest’s final home game of the season. “It will be a great atmosphere,” said Forest manager Steve Cooper. “The support has been incredible and I never get tired of saying it.”