Freddie Ljungberg admits Arsenal's title chances "do not look that great" ahead of their "must-win" meeting with the Premiership leaders, Chelsea, at Highbury on Sunday.
However, the Sweden midfielder believes there are still some positives which can be taken out of the 1-0 defeat at Newcastle. A fifth away defeat of the season has left the Gunners back down in sixth place, a daunting 17 points behind Jose Mourinho's side and now five points adrift of second-placed Liverpool and also Manchester United.
Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has achieved a top-two finish in every full season he has been at Arsenal following his arrival in 1996 and, given the current points deficit, it would seem that second-best is now their realistic target.
Ljungberg, however, believes there are some signs the Gunners can recapture top form as they go in search of an eighth straight home win in the Premiership this weekend.
"The whole time I have been here, we have been either first or second, so that is what I am aiming for - but of course it does not look that great at the moment," said the Sweden international. But if we can take something with us from the way we played at Newcastle in the first half and keep on going, then I think we can get better."
Arsenal dominated much of the first half at St James' Park, but were unable to convert their possession into the lead. The dismissal of midfielder Gilberto just 12 minutes after the restart changed the balance of the match, which the Magpies went on to win 1-0 through Nolberto Solano.
Arsenal have claimed only one win and two draws from their eight away matches in the Premiership this season, and the 28-year-old midfielder reflected: "Of course, there are a lot of things going wrong if you are just taking that little amount of points away from home, but against Newcastle it was better. In the first half we played good football for a long time and played for each other."
Ljungberg said: "Unfortunately at the start of the second half we had a sending-off straightaway, so afterwards the game changed a bit, and they scored with only a few minutes left. It is upsetting, but that is the way it is."
Ljungberg revealed the players had thought long and hard about why their domestic away form has not lived up to their standards in the Champions' League, where Arsenal won all three on the road during the group stages.
The midfielder said: "We can look ourselves in the mirror over the way we played football and the way we fight for each other and give the ball at the right time - that has not been the case lately. We had talked about that in the week and made that clear."
Facing the defending champions may not be the ideal fixture in which you would be looking to bounce back, and Ljungberg accepted: "It is going to be a difficult game." However, the Swede declared: "But it is at Highbury and all games at Highbury are must-win."
Wenger left Tyneside having seen his side lose back-to-back Premiership games for the first time in more than three years, and was furious with the Magpies' physical approach - by skipper Alan Shearer in particular.
The Arsenal manager will be without Gilberto for the Chelsea game with the Brazilian midfielder serving a one-match suspension - unless match official Dermot Gallacher makes an unlikely decision to rescind one of the bookings.
Wenger had hoped to be able to field Ashley Cole against Chelsea, the full-back having been out since the start of October with a fractured bone in his foot. His return, though, is now not likely to be until the new year, as with his understudy Gaël Clichy.Reuse content