Mikel Arteta says Arsenal must learn lessons from Chelsea’s winning goal on Sunday as they prepare to face one of the Premier League’s most dangerous counter-attacking sides in Manchester United.
After a disciplined performance that looked like it would bring Arteta his first win as head coach, Arsenal were sunk by two goals in the final seven minutes against their London rivals on Sunday.
The winner, scored by Tammy Abraham, came following a rapid break from the visitors which left Arsenal’s defence completely exposed.
It was the type of goal Arsenal have conceded far too often this season and it's a weakness Arteta knows United will look to exploit with the pace of Daniel James and Marcus Rashford when they visit Emirates Stadium on New Year’s Day.
“The second goal that we conceded was in a transition where we had a bad structure and organisation when defending big spaces with equal numbers,” said Arsenal’s head coach.
“We made one half-bad decision and these things are similar, with space they [United] can punish you for sure.”
Despite the defeat against Chelsea, Arsenal’s performance during the London derby received plenty of plaudits from both fans and pundits.
A breathtaking opening 30 minutes saw them lead through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s header and up to Bernd Leno’s howler seven minutes from time, they never really looked like conceding despite the visitors dominating possession after the interval.
Arteta’s players were understandably devastated to leave the match empty-handed and the Spaniard admits he is concerned the manner of defeat could have done further damage to already low confidence levels.
“That’s my worry now,” he said. “I hope that the result doesn’t affect them too much. They were all physically blown and disappointed in how the game ended because they didn’t feel that they deserved that, but we have to move on.
“We have another game and it’s a big one as well. They have to respond and this is the challenge now.”
Arsenal go into the United match sitting 12th in the Premier League, 11 points off the top four and just six above the relegation zone.
They have won just one of their last 15 games in all competitions and have lost four on the spin at home for the first time since 1959.
Injury problems at the back are not helping the situation, with Calum Chambers suffering a serious knee injury against Chelsea, joining Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac on the sidelines.
Rob Holding and Sokratis could return to bolster the back four, however, as could Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos and Gabriel Martinelli - who all missed out on Sunday.
“Every game for us is a must-win,” admitted Arteta. “Against any opponent we have to win. We are Arsenal and these are the demands.
“The level of pressure is different when you look up the table or down. At the moment I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the table, but to our performance and the result relating to the performance that we can put on the pitch.
“I was very pleased and grateful with how the fans responded to the team throughout 90 minutes [against Chelsea].
“They generated an atmosphere and a connection between the fans and team that probably for a long time hasn’t been seen, but now we have to give them more and we have to convince them that this is the way we want to play. Hopefully they will be right behind us.”