Arsenal v Manchester United: Per Mertesacker challenges Gunners to restore their pride after 'worst setback of the season'

Arsenal must recover from their 5-1 demolition at Anfield as they face struggling Manchester United on Wednesday

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has urged the Gunners to restore their pride with victory over Manchester United on Wednesday night in an effort to resume their Premier League title challenge.

The 5-1 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday saw Arsenal lose their spot at the top of the Premier League table to London rivals Chelsea, but the embarrassment came in that they were four goals down within 20 minutes. The loss triggered questions of whether Arsenal were mentally prepared to cope with a push for the title – déjà vu for their fans – as they prepare for four crunch games across three different competitions.

It is because of this that Mertesacker has called for an immediate response, with the Evening Standard reporting that the German feels it is “one of the worst setbacks of the season”.

“To be honest, it’s one of the worst setbacks of this season,” said the centre-back. “We feel very bad at the moment, disappointed with our performance right from the start.

“It was just not good enough to compete at that level. Liverpool seemed full of confidence. At the start we were eight points clear of Liverpool so we should have been more confident and more aware of the situation but that wasn’t the case.

“We have the opportunity to respond quickly on Wednesday and we have to remind ourselves what we have done from Manchester City [when Arsenal lost 6-3] until now. That is at stake and to show that responsibility for ourselves and for the pride of our club.”

Mertesacker believes Arsenal supporters will unite behind the team in this key period, which also includes Sunday’s fifth-round FA Cup clash against Liverpool at Emirates Stadium and the home leg of the last‑16 Champions League tie against Bayern Munich three days later.

He told Arsenal Player: “We have huge games coming up but we can rely on our fans that they will push us again. I think the team will give something back in the next couple of weeks.”

Mikel Arteta said the defeat felt “like a car crash” and has also challenged his team-mates to respond.

“We have to react,” said the midfielder. “We know we need to improve and face those games in a different manner because after 18 minutes we were 4-0 down and it was like a car crash. The manager was really upset at half-time because it wasn’t good enough for this club. It was the angriest I have seen him.”

Arsenal remain confident Wednesday’s match will go ahead despite the threat of a second Tube strike following last week’s industrial action. Talks were ongoing today between trade union officials and London Underground managers to try to resolve the dispute over ticket office closures with another 48-hour strike planned from tomorrow.

An Arsenal spokesman told Standard Sport the club remain in “constant liaison with all relevant authorities”. The Victoria line and the Piccadilly line will be affected by a strike and the club said: “We are urging fans to plan their journeys and leave plenty of time.”

The Gunners were forced to postpone a match on Boxing Day 2012 due to industrial action but that decision was taken because there were also no overground services running as it was a national holiday.

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