With his team’s Champions League qualification ambitions in ruins, Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka felt it was time to deliver some home truths.
“Disastrous” was how he summed up Arsenal’s 2-0 loss at Newcastle on Monday night that left Tottenham in charge of the race between the north London rivals for a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Then he went further.
“We didn’t do what the gameplan was, not listening to the coach. We were doing our things and when you do your things, this is what happens,” he told Sky Sports.
“You don’t deserve to play Champions League, you don’t deserve to even play Europa League. It’s very hard to take and I don’t know why we don’t do what the coach is asking of us.
“We need people to have the balls to come here and play, because we know this is one of our most important games. But a performance like this is not acceptable and very sad. I feel very sorry for Arsenal supporters.”
If only Arsenal had shown some of that fight on the field at a rocking St. James’ Park.
Mikel Arteta’s team buckled under the pressure of playing their biggest match of the season, with an own-goal by Ben White and a late strike by Bruno Guimaraes capping a dominant display by the Magpies.
This night was all about the Gunners, though, and whether their players could keep Champions League qualification in their own hands. They couldn’t.
“Newcastle deserved to win the match,” Arteta, who appeared visibly stunned by his team’s under-performance, said.
“They were comfortably better than us. We had nothing.”
Arsenal’s implosion was Chelsea’s gain. The result meant Thomas Tuchel’s third-placed Blues were sure of finishing in the top four.
It was a second damaging defeat in a five-day span for the Gunners, who also lost at Tottenham 3-0 on Thursday.
Heading into the final round on Sunday, Spurs occupy fourth place — two points above Arsenal in fifth — and just need to beat already-relegated Norwich to guarantee a top-four spot. Given Tottenham’s far superior goal difference, a draw will surely be enough against the league’s last-placed team.
Arsenal will host Everton at the same time and know a win still might not be enough to get back in the Champions League after a five-year absence.
“There is always a chance in football,” Arteta said.
“You have to be there if the chance appears.”