By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Four senior Arsenal players instigated a secret meeting in a bid to save the team’s season, it has been revealed.
Quartet Petr Cech, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky called the entire senior squad together behind closed doors to deliver some home truths.
Arsenal had been on a run of five matches without a win before thrashing Hull 4-0 on Tuesday night to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.
The team’s sustained slump had left them eight points behind leaders Leicester in the Premier League title race and with an almost impossible task to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
It had older heads in the dressing room worried and private inquest took place behind closed doors without the knowledge of manager Arsene Wenger and his backroom staff.
“We are not going to lie, we know as a unit it has been tough and we all had a good chat amongst us behind closed doors” explained Theo Walcott. “I think it is important that as a team [to know] we have got it in us. We just have to produce it more often.
“You had a sense of the Tottenham game especially, when you go down to ten men in a big game like that, the belief and the character was there. The never-give-up spirit was there as well. In the derby matches, they could be the matches that turn your season and we may have turned the corner maybe.
“I’d like to keep what was said among ourselves but it was very important. We have had a reaction from it anyway.”
Wenger promotes an environment whereby his squad can sort their difficulties out on their own and the meeting is believed to have taken place before the 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane last Saturday.
“He probably knows about it anyway – he’s got ears everywhere at the club,” observed Walcott. “The manager respects the players’ privacy and what’s happening personally amongst us all. It was a meeting to express how everyone was feeling basically and it worked.
“The most important thing at Hull was just a clean sheet. We have been conceding too many goals cheaply as a unit. We haven’t been scoring enough. It was a confidence boost to everyone.”
Arsenal are vying to become the first post-war team to win three consecutive FA Cups, yet Walcott admits their eyes were on bigger prizes this year.
He said: “We want to stay in this competition because it is massive for us. We want to make those history books and try and push on to Wembley and do it on the third occasion but we have got a big test against Watford first.
“As you get closer and closer, there is a sense of belief that we can do it and create history which would be a great achievement for everyone. But we all know what we want this year and we would swap it in a heartbeat without a doubt.”
Victory at Hull came at a cost and the latest Arsenal news is that four new players have joined a casualty list that now numbers 11.