Arsenal's hope of finishing in the top four could come to an end if they end up losing to Middlesbrough later today who look destined to get relegated from the Premier League. While Middlesbrough have been struggling at the wrong end of the table, Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have been having their own problems lately.
The Gunners have been on their worst run ever since Wenger took over in 1996 and could be set to miss out on qualifying for the Champions League for the first time under him. The Frenchman has always managed to find a way to get Arsenal into the top four but this season is proving to be too much for him and his players.
After a rather convincing win against West Ham, Arsenal were expected to get another three points against Crystal Palace but they were completely out played by the likes of Christian Benteke, Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha. While every Arsenal players has been receiving a lot of criticism recently, the Arsenal fans decided to single out Hector Bellerin after their loss to Crystal Palace.
The Arsenal right back suffered an ankle injury back in November and has since not been able to rediscover his early season form. The Spaniard's form has certainly dipped in the last few months and while it's fair to say he has not been performing well, it is unfair to single him out given that the whole team has not been at their best.
"He has not come back to his level since he has been injured. I think for a while he was still feeling pain, yes. Then you get bad habits and you forget that your job first is to defend and win challenges because you protect yourself a little bit," ESPN quoted Wenger as saying.
"Then you realise you have to come back and I think now he is trying to focus again on what is important, to defend well and afterwards he can give us that extra bit that is important as well. I agree that for a while he was not the Hector Bellerin we had seen at the start of the season."
"I think yes, as he is a guy who is genuinely Arsenal and wants to do well. He is ready to play with pain and I think it is unfair."
Arsenal have a tough set of fixtures coming up from their remaining eight games left in the Premier League and the whole team needs to step up if they are to salvage something from this season. Arsenal still have to play Tottenham, Manchester United, Stoke City and Everton but they first need to concentrate on getting the three points against Middlesbrough.
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Wenger said in a recent interview that his players are determined to come back strong and are ready to respond to all the criticism they have been receiving lately.
"They accept completely that we were not at the right level. The fans want to be behind the team and the way we respond on the football pitch will decide the attitude of the fans. The fans love the club. It's a good period to be united and not divided. Historically Arsenal has been about that. One of our values is to be together. There's no better period of the season than now to show it," Wenger said.