MIKEL ARTETA admits Arsenal ARE in a relegation scrap.
And the under-fire Gunners boss, 38, has warned his flops they must pick up points over the crucial festive period.
Arsenal start the day in 15th, four points above the drop zone.
They host rivals Chelsea this evening, desperately chasing their first Prem win since November 1, before massive games against fellow strugglers Brighton and West Brom.
And Arteta declared: “The next seven or eight days are going to be crucial to where we’re heading to in the Premier League. We have a crucial week, we have to stand up and we have to pick up points.”
And when asked if he and his players now accept they are in a relegation dogfight, Spaniard Arteta replied: “Yes, absolutely.”
Arsenal have enjoyed an uninterrupted 101 YEARS in the top flight, after being elected to the old First Division in 1919.
But they could start their Emirates clash with Chelsea just two points off the drop zone if Fulham beat high-flying Southampton this afternoon.
New West Brom boss Sam Allardyce has already warned Arteta he is in a relegation fight.
And the Arsenal chief added: “It’s been us that have let ourselves down and it is down to us to change it.
“I have to protect my players and I will keep doing it.
“When I see they are really trying and they are trying to do the best thing and then mistakes, errors, whatever happens, I will support them to the last day — this is the way I have to do it.
“They have to play on the pitch, they have to put in the performances and we are here to help them as much as possible.
“We have to accept that, at the moment, it is nowhere near enough.”
Skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will have a late fitness test on his calf injury this morning but Arteta is hopeful he will be fit to face the Blues.