Mikel Arteta set Arsenal challenge vs Newcastle to reclaim top-four initiative from Tottenham

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Mikel Arteta set Arsenal challenge vs Newcastle to reclaim top-four initiative from Tottenham

Arsenal’s loss in the North London Derby had all the hallmarks of certain previous defeats this season and Mikel Arteta must ensure history doesn’t repeat itself following Tottenham’s win over Burnley.

What will have caused concern for the Spaniard as well as Gunners supporters – aside from the final result on Thursday night – is the potential central defensive crisis that could have a major impact on the club’s hopes of sealing Champions League qualification for next season.

Not only is Rob Holding suspended for Monday night’s clash against Newcastle United, but Arteta is sweating on the fitness of his first-choice pairing of Benjamin White and Gabriel Magalhaes after opting against risking the former against Spurs when the latter needed to be substituted.

READ MORE:Every word Mikel Arteta said on Arsenal’s defensive injuries, Antonio Conte and Newcastle clash

Speaking ahead of the trip to St James’ Park, the Arsenal manager has admitted that he’s unsure as to whether he will be able to call upon either player, never mind both. “It’s a good question,” he told the club’s official website when asked about the availability of the pair. “We will know probably more tomorrow (Sunday), so we wanted to extend this period as much as possible to understand how they are recovering, how they are feeling, assess them and tomorrow probably we will know more about how they are.

“I could (give you an estimate), but I will probably be telling you whatever. Tomorrow will be the day we will have better answers, probably not the answers that we want until matchday, but hopefully better answers.”

Regardless of whether or not one – or both – Gabriel and White are available to face Newcastle, Arteta knows his side must bounce back from that defeat in the North London Derby immediately as anything less than three points against Eddie Howe’s side means Tottenham will be in the driving seat to finish fourth going into the final weekend of the Premier League season.

However, the problem is that many of Arsenal’s 12 league losses this season have come in bunches. There was three in a row that left them bottom of the table at the end of August, back-to-back defeats against Manchester United and Everton at the beginning of December and then another three-game losing streak against Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton last month.

In addition, after losing at home to Manchester City on New Year’s Day, the Gunners didn’t win a game for the rest of January which saw them crash out of the FA Cup at the third round stage against Nottingham Forest and then eliminated in the Carabao Cup semi-final by Liverpool.

To Arsenal’s credit, they have bounced back from those league defeats to put themselves in a position where wins over Newcastle and Everton will guarantee a return to the Champions League. But with just two games of the season remaining, time is against them so now is not the time for back-to-back losses.

Following Spurs’ 1-0 win over Burnley in the early kick-off on Sunday afternoon, they have climbed above Arsenal in fourth and have a two-point advantage as well as a superior goal difference, thus applying pressure on their north London rivals to return to winning ways on Monday night.

But only twice this season have Arsenal followed up a loss in the league with a win straight away – interestingly the first was against Newcastle in the reverse meeting last November and more recently away at Aston Villa before the March international break – so the challenge for Arteta is to ensure he elicits an immediate response from his players at St James’ Park in order to reclaim the top-four initiative from Tottenham.

Source by Football London

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