Arsene Wenger complained that Arsenal’s busy fixture schedule was causing their slump as criticism of the Frenchman intensified.
Arsenal’s top-four Premier League hopes are all but over after a 2-1 loss to Brighton, with the Gunners now 13 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham.
Wenger’s explanation may not wash with many Arsenal fans, plenty of whom have long been calling for his departure.
Those shouts will intensify on the back of another damp defeat, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring a consolation after Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray had put Brighton in control.
Arsenal have now lost eight of their last 13 games across all competitions since the turn of the year, with speculation about Wenger’s future now rife.
Thierry Henry refused to call on his former Gunners boss to quit, but when asked on Sky Sports whether he would want the job should it become available, the Belgium assistant manager said: “Listen, I’m a competitor, you don’t back down from a challenge.
“We are hypothetically speaking before people jump ahead of everything, (but) I have never backed down from a challenge since I was young.”
Arsenal’s record goalscorer added: “If you love a place and they ask – I repeat, they ask – for help, you are always going to say yes.”
Former Liverpool hard man Graeme Souness said Arsenal were “pretty, pretty, pretty, but not very effective” against Brighton.
For his part, Wenger says his players are suffering physically. “We had difficulty to get going and we suffered a lot physically in the first half,” he said.
“After that, mentally as well I believe that the lack of confidence, linked with the physical aspect, made us lose some balls where they took advantage of it.
“Overall, on top of that, we made some defensive mistakes, where they took advantage of it as well. In the second half, it was all us.
“But we lacked a bit of sharpness and freshness physically, to make the difference.
“At the moment, we play too many games and are charged negatively on top of that because we lose them. So it’s difficult.”
Wenger’s side face a make-or-break Europa League round-of-16 tie against AC Milan, with the first leg at the San Siro on Thursday.
While Arsenal’s season heads towards a write-off, Brighton are unbeaten in all competitions since January 20.
The Seagulls have an FA Cup quarter-final with Manchester United on the horizon and broke their record of not beating a top-six side so far this season.
“What it feels at the moment is that this is a big win, particularly given who we were playing against,” manager Chris Hughton said of the victory which takes Brighton seven points clear of the relegation zone.
“Our form allowed that to happen. We were good first half and might have scored another. We’ve been on the edge all season.
“Every game we come into we have to play at a level to get something. We’re definitely hitting our best form at the right stage of the season. It’s now whether we can take it forward.”