at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta admits his side desperately need to restore the feelgood factor at the Emirates Stadium with a victory over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger's team are on a miserable run of two wins from their last nine matches in all competitions and, after seven years without a trophy, the club's fans are growing increasingly frustrated.
Before last weekend's dismal 2-0 home defeat against Swansea, supporters protested against Arsenal's board for their failure to back Wenger in the transfer market and then unleashed a torrent of abuse at the Gunners boss and his players at the final whistle.
Arsenal are currently languishing in 10th place after their worst start to a Premier League season in Wenger's 16-year reign.
And the sense of crisis enveloping the north London outfit was hardly eased in midweek when Wenger sent out a weakened team in the Champions League clash at Olympiakos and saw the Greeks come from behind to claim a 2-1 win that ended Arsenal's hopes of finishing top of their group.
Add in some ill-timed comments from the Gunners' chief commercial officer Tom Fox, who claimed on Thursday that Arsenal are not only about winning but also commercial success, and Saturday's fixture is a potentially volatile one.
In the circumstances, a win over West Brom is vital to lift the gloom and Spanish midfielder Arteta has vowed to do all he can to make the fans happier.
“It's massive now. Winning two or three games in a row will change the atmosphere,” he said.
“We want the fans to stay behind us but the fans need us to be on top of our form to get that excitement. We have to give them something now and they will respond, because they love Arsenal as much as we do.
“They go to the ground to support us, they are not coming to criticise us because they want something bad for us. It is the opposite.
“They get upset because they are not watching what they want to watch. We have to respect that. We are all angry with ourselves and hopefully we can show that on Saturday.
“We have a really busy period now over Christmas and it can make the difference – you win two or three games in a row and suddenly you are near the top again. That's what we have to try.”
The January transfer window is not far away and most managers in Wenger's position would be desperately trying to set up deals. The Frenchman is not a man who believes in throwing money at a problem however.
“We will see where we stand on January 1,” Wenger said. “If everybody is fit we have a strong squad, but in certain areas we are a bit short because we cannot rotate.”
Wenger does appear likely to once again sign the club's record scorer Thierry Henry on loan from New York Red Bulls, just as he did this time last year.
Meanwhile, Arsenal's problems are music to the ears of Albion head coach Steve Clarke, whose side are currently in fifth position, four points ahead of the Gunners.
Clarke admits Wenger has to accept criticism when things go wrong, but he expects the Frenchman to get Arsenal back on track eventually.
“The way the game is now means, no matter what club you're at, if your team is not doing well you're going to get criticism,” said Clarke. “That's the state of play with Arsenal at the moment.
“The team hasn't been firing as maybe people thought they would do, especially after the start they had. They've introduced a few new players this year and it's maybe just taken the team a little bit longer to find a rhythm than it did before.
“But nobody can question the record of Mr Wenger. It's a great record, he has done fantastically for the football club and I'm sure the club will stick with him.” – Sapa-AFP