Declan Rice’s first Premier League goal sealed a thoroughly deserved victory for West Ham at the London Stadium, which saw Arsenal fall six points behind Chelsea after they beat Newcastle 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal have not finished in the top four and qualified for the Champions League since the 2015/16 season, when they finished second behind Leicester City, with managing director Vinai Venkatesham admitting in November that sustained failure to qualify for the lucrative tournament would negatively affect the club’s carefully structured business model.
Arsenal have alternated between fourth and fifth in the league since the sixth weekend of the season, but Emery has admitted their most recent defeat has made their challenge a whole lot harder ahead of next weekend’s crunch match against Chelsea. Lose, and Arsenal could fall as far as nine points adrift of the top four.
“Now it’s more difficult, it’s clear,” Emery said. “I think the most important thing for us is to recover our confidence and be more competitive. We need consistency over 38 matches. Now it isn’t enough at the moment.
“[West Ham] is a bad result. If we had won we are playing against Chelsea with a three point maximum distance. The big opportunity for us is that we can take in our hands the possibility to be closer to them.
“This result makes that more difficult.”
After an impressive run of 22 matches unbeaten under Emery, Arsenal have begun to struggle away from home much like they did last season. Rice’s goal consigned them to their fifth consecutive league match without a win, with their last victory away from the Emirates coming when they edged past Bournemouth at the end of November.
And Emery added that his side were “working” on how to improve their away form ahead of a challenging run of fixtures. Arsenal’s next away match sees them take on reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, before trips to Huddersfield and north London rivals Tottenham.
“It’s our challenge,” Emery said. “Each match is our challenge away. We are working on that. It’s also the opposition team. Like here, for example, they are with their supporters they feel good and strong and can push.
“We need to take more confidence, more performance collectively, being competitive away to change this moment. We started the season away well, being competitive and winning. And then sometimes we are doing but like today we need to do more to be more competitive and to impose our idea and our quality."
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