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Arsenal's courage has deserted them just when they need it most… the players have frozen

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Arsenal’s courage has deserted them just when they need it most… Mikel Arteta’s players have FROZEN under pressure with two defeats in a week to hand initiative to Spurs in top-four race

  • Arsenal lost 2-1 to Brighton in their Premier League clash on Saturday afternoon
  • It was a second consecutive defeat after losing to Palace earlier in the week
  • The two losses have seen the Gunners lose their advantage in the top four race 

One of the main qualities that Arsenal need to get themselves over the line and turn this season of promise into the tangible reward of a Champions League place has deserted them just when they need it most.

Courage, or a lack of it, was among the issues Mikel Arteta bemoaned after this latest shock setback to his team’s top-four hopes.

The Arsenal manager raised the subject largely unprompted and made his views crystal clear. ‘It was not a problem of attitude, it was a problem of courage,’ he said. ‘We didn’t have that purpose. We didn’t have that intention to attack. We were looking at each other too many times instead of taking ownership and doing what we have to do.

Arsenal dropped more points in the race for the top four as they were defeated by Brighton

‘We were sloppy, we had no purpose to attack, we were really imprecise and we didn’t want to play forward.’

It takes courage to seize the moment and deliver when the pressure is on.

Last Monday Arsenal were required to stand firm against Crystal Palace and not wilt when the going got tough. They collapsed in a 3-0 defeat.

It was the same again when Brighton visited and the Gunners needed to deliver a response and not be thrown off course by the blow delivered by Palace.

In both games Arsenal have been found wanting; the players froze rather than thrived. Arteta is seriously concerned — a fact made apparent by his willingness to go public in discussing such a fundamental flaw in his team.

Mikel Arteta's men have begun to crumble at the most important stage of the season

Mikel Arteta’s men have begun to crumble at the most important stage of the season

Meanwhile, Spurs have found form when it matters and are looking stronger with each game

Meanwhile, Spurs have found form when it matters and are looking stronger with each game

Protective of his young group and the club, Arteta can also be brutally honest and demanding when he sees fit.

He is right to be worried and to lay down a challenge to his players.

The stakes will only rise from here. Arsenal fought back brilliantly from a horror start to the season to grasp the initiative in the race for the top four going into the international break.

Now they are in real danger of throwing away all that hard work.

The Gunners did eventually come to life on Saturday, but only when they had no other option.

By then they were already 1-0 down to Leandro Trossard’s impressive opener.

Midway through the second half Brighton’s first goal was bettered by their second, blasted home on the half volley by the brilliant Enock Mwepu.

Mikel Arteta has questioned his side's'courage' and said they aren't playing with'purpose'

Mikel Arteta has questioned his side’s ‘courage’ and said they aren’t playing with ‘purpose’

Nevertheless, Martin Odegaard did mange to get on the scoresheet for Arsenal on Saturday - scoring a consolation in the 89th minute of the game

Nevertheless, Martin Odegaard did mange to get on the scoresheet for Arsenal on Saturday – scoring a consolation in the 89th minute of the game

Don’t be fooled by Arsenal’s late rally, which included Martin Odegaard’s deflected consolation.

By that stage they could not do much else other than throw everything at Brighton. It was all too little too late.

A small crumb of comfort in a week where Arsenal have been scratching around for good news is that it has not quite reached that same stage in their pursuit of a top-four place.

Another consolation is that they have seen how quickly the situation can change. If it can swing away from them in the blink of an eye, why can’t it swing back?

The next opponents for Graham Potter’s Brighton side? Tottenham. Another impressive away display from Brighton will help Arsenal’s cause.

Midfielder Mwepu laughed: ‘Normally we would be focused on our own goals but I can promise we will go into the game and do our best to win again. That would be good for them, I guess.’

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