Cesc Fabregas has accused Arsenal of being scared to win big games and has expressed his belief that Premier League leaders Manchester United are mentally stronger in the title race.
The Arsenal captain returned from a hamstring injury as a substitute in last Monday's 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford, but has revealed his worries following United's performance. Fabregas saw the home side dominate physically and also suggested that Arsène Wenger's team are paying too much attention to critics after five trophyless years.
"What we can say is that they were more aggressive than us," Fabregas said. "They have a belief that comes from not losing at all this season.. That gives you a lot of help mentally.
"I am realising more and more that football is about confidence and mentality," he added. "Sometimes you do the right thing, but if people tell you it is not right, you start believing it, even though you were right at first."
Arsenal are not known to be an aggressive team under Wenger – but Fabregas hinted at other problems. After going top in the Premier League at the start of the month, Fabregas believes Arsenal were afraid of defeat against United. "The difference on the night was that we were scared of losing but they were not scared of winning," he said.
"That was the big difference that played in our heads. Sometimes we seem scared of losing these big games. We don't really go for it and we're tempted to drop back and see what the opposition will do.
"We look to see if we are capable of beating them by what they are doing and how good they are on the day instead of us going forward causing them problems and dominating the game ourselves."
Yet Fabregas is optimistic about the title race as Arsenal have already played United, Chelsea and Manchester City away from home, winning 3-0 at City in October but losing to United last week and 2-0 to Chelsea. He said: "We have already played all the games against the rest of the top four sides away from home. They have all got to come to the Emirates and we know that we can beat anyone at home. That gives us morale and confidence."
Wenger, who has confirmed Arsenal will be signing the 18-year-old Japanese forward Ryo Miyaichi next month, is expected to have his players in for training on Christmas Day ahead of the home game against Chelsea on the 27th. He said: "Don't forget we have played at Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, so we are in a very strong position."