John Hartson thinks Arsenal should continue to support Mikel Arteta despite the Gunners facing the prospect of having their worst league campaign for 26 years.
The pressure has grown on Arteta during a poor season, but Wednesday’s 1-0 win at Chelsea lifted Arsenal to eighth place and gave them an outside chance of qualifying for Europe next season.
Arsenal have not missed out on European football since the 1995-96 campaign – former striker Hartson’s first full season at the club – after finishing 12th in the top flight the previous term, but closing wins over Crystal Palace and Brighton could keep their proud record intact.
“I’m not saying he (Arteta) has had a great season because it’s been disappointing,” Hartson told the PA news agency.
“But he’s a young manager and there have been some positives and improvements as well.
“The club made the decision to bring him in and I think they’ll back him. I think that’s the right thing to do.
“I know people are suggesting he’s not experienced enough, but he’s made some big calls in terms of leaving players out. He’s shown that steeliness you need when you become a manager.
“He showed again at Chelsea that he can win the big games when Arsenal are disciplined and defend properly.
“He’s had a full season now after winning the FA Cup and I don’t see the owners wanting to chop and change after Unai Emery lasted less than two years at the club.”
Arteta has hinted at a busy summer transfer window at the Emirates Stadium as he looks to get the club back among the top sides in the Premier League.
Arsenal have finished outside the top four each season since being runners-up in the 2015-16 campaign.
Several fringe players are expected to depart, with decisions also to be made on whether to offer new deals to the likes of Brazilian defender David Luiz.
“They have to rebuild,” Hartson said. “If they want to keep up with Manchester City and Chelsea they have to keep their best young players and go and build.
“They’ve got some really good young players like (Bukayo) Saka and (Emile) Smith Rowe, but they maybe need a midfield player and have got to shore up defensively.
“They’re not as strong as they’d like to be defensively and need some experience there.”
Arteta insisted his side had not given up hope of qualifying for Europe next term after Arsenal’s first Stamford Bridge win in a decade.
“It’s a bit of momentum going into the end of the season,” Hartson said.
“I don’t know if it makes much of a difference, but maybe there’ll be a feel-good factor for the last two games.
“No Europe after 25 years would be a hell of a blow for a club the size of Arsenal.”
:: Former Wales international John Hartson is launching nominations for the 2021 Welsh FA Grassroots Awards, presented by McDonald’s. To nominate your grassroots hero, go to www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards.