Unai Emery insists he won’t be affected by growing criticism of his Arsenal reign as the misfiring Gunners bid to get back on track at Huddersfield on Saturday.
Emery’s side head to Huddersfield confident they can use the Premier League’s bottom club as a cure for travel sickness that has seen them fail to win outside the Emirates Stadium in that competition since November 25.
Arsenal fans were not impressed with an insipid performance in their 3-1 loss at Manchester City last week that suggested Emery has yet to get to grips with problems he inherited from Arsene Wenger at the end of last season.
But the fixture list has been kind to the Spaniard and three points at Huddersfield would keep sixth placed Arsenal in contention for a top four finish.
The trip to Yorkshire is followed by a longer journey to Belarus to take on BATE Borisov next Thursday as the Europa League returns.
But Arsenal’s FA Cup elimination means they can enjoy a free weekend before completing the tie in London, with February then ending with winnable home games in the league against Southampton and Bournemouth.
Top four rivals Chelsea, in contrast, play Manchester City on Sunday and then Tottenham in the league before the end of the month.
Fifth placed Manchester United have the distraction of a Champions League last 16 tie against Paris Saint Germain looming and take on Liverpool in the league later in February.
Arsenal will therefore have only themselves to blame if they finish the month in a weaker position than they began.
Emery, the most successful coach in Europa League history, can legitimately expect to wait until March before deciding whether that competition offers a more realistic opportunity of Champions League qualification than a league placing.
– Play with passion –
But he is adamant the recent criticism of his stewardship had not affected him, even if Arsenal’s away form is a cause for concern.
“My first critic is always myself,” he said. “I work over the criticism of me because I know that work in the present can change our way.
“We have the possibility and the opportunity to get into the top four, but we know it’s not easy. One month ago, we were in the same situation. We are strong at home but we need to do better away.
“We started very well away, changing also our mentality to get more points away, but now we need to recover this confidence and the next opportunity is against Huddersfield.
“We know that defensively we need to do better. We have to continue in our way with passion and also stay calm.”
Emery is hoping January loan signing Denis Suarez can make a bigger impact following a noticeably poor debut against his former club Manchester City
The Barcelona winger, 25, trained on his day off in the hope of getting up to speed by the weekend.
“His adaptation to us and also on Sunday in 25 minutes, in the first days with us, is not with good performance,” Emery said.
“This week he worked Monday alone here with our coaches and he’s working with a different adaptation, better than last week.
“I hope he’s continuing to improve every day. Then he can show in the next matches how he can help us, better than in the first match against Manchester City.”