Arsene Wenger has admitted that it is “nearly impossible” for Arsenal to finish in the top four in the Premier League following their 2-1 defeat at Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.
The London club’s third successive defeat in the league, and a fourth loss in a row in all competitions, only increased the pressure on the underfire Frenchman.
Arsenal are 13 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur in the table with nine games to go, and Wenger acknowledged their hopes were now out of their hands following the latest setback.
“It is very difficult, nearly impossible now, we are too far behind,” he told the BBC. “We need two teams to collapse not one. But at the moment we have different worries in how to come back to winning a game.”
Wenger’s men were outplayed in the first period as Brighton earned a 2-1 lead at half-time.
Lewis Dunk turned in a seventh-minute opener before Glenn Murray headed home his sixth goal in as many games 19 minutes later.
But after loud cries of “Wenger out” from the visiting fans, Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave the London side some hope when he flicked home from close range two minutes before half-time.
Brighton held on in the second half to record a famous victory, despite seven minutes of stoppage time following an injury to Ezequiel Schelotto, who was momentarily knocked unconscious after a reckless challenge from Sead Kolasinac.
Wenger said he is committed to remaining manager and staying in a role he has held since 1996, despite speculation in the English media linking Germany coach Joachim Low with taking over at the Emirates Stadium in the summer.
“It’s not easy but I have enough experience and desire to turn things around,” he added. “We have to stick together, there’s no other solution.”
The defeat capped a miserable past seven days for Arsenal, who lost 3-0 to Manchester City in the League Cup final last Sunday at Wembley Stadium, before losing to the same side again, by the same scoreline, at home on Thursday night.
As to where it went wrong for his team yesterday, Wenger said: “We were passive, struggling for confidence and heavy legged but responded well in the second-half.”
Arsenal’s only realistic hope of qualifying for the Uefa Champions League next season is to win the Europa League.
But they face in-form AC Milan in the last 16 of the competition, with the first leg on Thursday at the San Siro Stadium, and Wenger said building up confidence in his players was now a real challenge.
“It is important to recover mentally and physically,” he said. “We are still jaded today, we gave a lot on Thursday night and you can see that today.”
The victory moves Brighton up to 10th in the table, seven points of the relegation zone. Manager Chris Hughton felt his side deserved the three points,
“The fact we got the two goals early gave us that buffer that we could hang on to,” he said. “But over the 90 minutes I felt we were very worthy winners.”