Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal need to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night to keep their slim hopes of a top-four finish alive.
Defeat in west London would leave the Gunners 13 points adrift of Chelsea, who currently occupy fourth spot in the Premier League table.
Despite improvements on the pitch since Arteta replaced Unai Emery last month, Arsenal have still only won one league game under the Spaniard.
They surrendered a lead to lose the return fixture 2-1 on December 29 and, having been held at home by Sheffield United on Saturday, Arteta believes victory against Frank Lampard’s men is now essential if he is to lead Arsenal to their first top-four finish since 2016.
“Tomorrow we need to win,” Arteta replied when asked about the importance of the game.
“It’s really important. It’s very, very important for us to win this game – to fight for that.
“Also, the game we played at home, it could have made a big difference and we were very close to it.
“Everyone is having a lot of problems to put together back-to-back wins, the league has been very competitive this season and that is why the gaps aren’t that big.
“There are still four months to play and a lot of things can happen, a lot of games between the top teams as well so I think that will change.”
Saturday’s draw with Sheffield United means that a 2-0 win over Manchester United on New Year’s Day is Arteta’s only league win since taking the helm.
The former Manchester City assistant has been helped in his quest to guide Arsenal back into the top four – and the Champions League – by other teams in the race also slipping up.
“The way we conceded, I think in the last two games as well, hurt us a little bit,” he added.
“We have to try to make a difference when we score first, we need to have the ambition still to score the second and the third goal, where we had the opportunities to do so.
“And in the final moments, in the Premier League, the game is never closed.”
Considering their recent injury troubles in defence, it is understood that Arsenal entered talks with Paris St Germain left-back Layvin Kurzawa late last week.
However, Arteta offered no update on a move for the France international and again suggested Arsenal could end the January transfer window with no additions to the squad.
“There is nothing new to say on any individual players. When we have more info, we’ll let you know,” he said when asked about Kurzawa.
Pushed on ending the window without signing a player, Arteta added: “It’s a possibility, yes.
“I would not be unhappy without anyone coming in if we couldn’t because the players have to be players who can really help us and make a difference in the squad, not just for the sake of bringing in players.”