Arsenal can afford no further slip-ups and must win every game if they are to secure yet another top-four Premier League finish, according to Arsene Wenger.
The Gunners cut the gap to Manchester City to seven points with a 2-1 victory at Middlesbrough on Monday evening and although they have a game in hand, their manager knows there is no margin for error.
Wenger said: “For us, the clarity is there – we have to win every game to have a chance to get in the top four, starting tonight.
“I think it will make the team a bit more serene. You could see that on some occasions, we were a bit over-cautious tonight. Hopefully that will give us a bit more confidence.
“Mathematically it is still possible, even if it is difficult, but we have to give it a go.”
The win on Teesside was secured by Mesut Ozil’s 71st-minute winner, but it proved to be far from plain-sailing at the Riverside Stadium.
Alexis Sanchez’s expertly-dispatched 42nd-minute free-kick had given the visitors the lead at the end of a tight first half, but Alvaro Negredo dragged Boro back into it five minutes after the restart and had Petr Cech not kept out Daniel Ayala’s close-range header 11 minutes later, the outcome might have been very different.
Wenger, who fielded a back three for the first time in his 20-year reign, said when asked if the ploy had worked: “Yes, it is the first time in 20 years. That shows you that even at my age, you can change.
“I felt we were recently a bit vulnerable defensively and I wanted a bit more reassurance to the team. Recently we have faced many direct games, and I thought before the game maybe they would play with [Rudy] Gestede and Negredo and go for a very direct game.
“That was the reason. It worked well in the first half. We didn’t give any chances away, we were quite solid.”