Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has urged his players to remember how good they are as they prepare for their season-saving Europa League clash with AC Milan on Thursday.
The Gunners head into their last-16 first leg showdown at a sold-out San Siro in disastrous form, having lost four successive matches and eight from 13 all competitions.
Such a nosedive has left Arsenal 13 points behind north London rivals Tottenham, who occupy fourth place in the English top flight, while Wenger has all but conceded defeat in qualifying for next season’s Champions League through the Premier League.
Their slump has intensified the pressure upon Wenger, who has admitted his squad’s confidence has plummeted, while skipper Laurent Koscielny has said the club is in a “negative spiral”.
“The players are a bit affected by what has happened but they want to win," said Wenger. "In life, you forget quickly how good you are.
“When you have a bad week, players change their mind on their own quality. Not to forget we are good football players but as well to fix reachable targets.
“Focus on what you can do better and realise what you didn’t do well and don’t be scared too much about the consequences of a bad result but focus on pragmatic things; defending better, playing quicker, doing more things together.
“This is an opportunity for us we have to take. It increases the pressure on you in this competition but as well it is certainly difficult when you go through a patch like that.”
Koscielny, who played in Arsenal’s defence during their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Milan in the 2012 Champions League, pulled no punches when describing the depths to which their spirits have dipped.
“We need to be together,” said Koscielny. “That’s the most important. It does not matter what is going on outside. We are in a negative spiral and it’s difficult to get out of this.
“We need to have positive voices in our heads, because the brain dictates the body and the legs. We have to be positive to have a good result and, step by step, we will come back stronger.”
Arsenal will have to navigate Thursday’s fixture against Milan, who are unbeaten since before Christmas, without defensive duo Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal and striker Alexandre Lacazette, who are all unavailable due to injury.