They’re trying to bury us

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has rounded on the club’s critics who “have the intention to bury us” and urged fans to rally around his players when Chelsea visit the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

The Gunners were beaten 2-0 by newly promoted Brentford in their Premier League opener, prompting a widespread backlash which included Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher describing Arsenal’s defending as “weak, bullied — men against boys.”

Arteta refused to name specific individuals but sought to galvanise supporters ahead of their clash against the Champions League holders, who they beat home and away in the league last season.

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Asked about Arsenal’s difficult start, Arteta said: “We knew that from the beginning. You have to play 38 games against all the teams at the end of the season and it’s the perception, the pressure and again, the negativity.

“I just want people that are constructive around me. I know that people have the intention to bury us and try to criticise us, but we are not interested in that. We have a lot of positivity and a lot of energy, new energy that is coming up. My full focus is on that and finding a way to beat Chelsea because we can, because we’ve done it.

“In moments when there are people and there is certain negativity around the place, you need your fans and your supporters more than ever. They have always been with the team and I have no doubt that on Sunday they are going to be right behind the team.

“If there is one thing that the team needs, it’s exactly that. If they really want to help the team, there’s not going to be a better medicine for them than to feel [the fans] very close with the right energy and supporting them and being behind them and the team is going to try their best.”

Arsenal revealed on Thursday that four playersPierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Willian, Alex Runarsson — tested positive for COVID-19 before the Brentford game, meaning Arteta was forced into late changes to his lineup.

The quartet remain doubtful to face Chelsea. Sources at the Premier League have told ESPN that Arsenal never formally requested that the fixture be postponed but Arteta still thought the game should have been called off.

“Yes, I was surprised but the regulators decided that the best thing to do was to play the game,” he said. “What we did is what we had to do through the club, and the club doctor explained the situation, how it developed and the risks that we considered.”

Arsenal have now spent more than any other Premier League club after announcing the arrival of Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid in a deal worth up to €40 million.

Aaron Ramsdale is expected to follow after they agreed a transfer totalling €35m with add-ons which, in addition to the acquisitions of Ben White, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares, takes their overall spending to almost £140m.

“We will see where we finish with the money that we have spent and what we have done in the last few years,” he said.

“We’re going to have seven players that have left the club and five that are coming in, so we are not bringing in more players than we already have. It’s already a big turnaround again and we’re going to try and do it in the right way, so this club is stable. It is a clear indicator, the business that we are doing. The ages are between 21 and 23-years-old and it tells you the project that we are building.”