London: Arsenal must get back to basics quickly if they are not to surrender their proud record of qualifying for the Champions League, manager Arsene Wenger said on Sunday after a 3-0 defeat at top-four rivals Everton.
An abysmal Arsenal performance at Goodison Park allowed Everton to move to within one point of the fourth-placed Londoners, meaning the last five games of the season will be nervy affairs for Wenger's out-of-form side.
Arsenal, who have appeared in the Champions League for 16 consecutive seasons, still had a glimmer of hope in the title race before Sunday's capitulation, now their top-four place looks in serious jeopardy.
With the Gunners playing in the FA Cup semi-final next weekend against second tier Wigan Athletic at Wembley, Everton can move into the top four if they avoid defeat away against bottom club Sunderland on Saturday.
"Everton were sharper, better and deserved to win," Wenger said after another poor showing against one of the top sides, following heavy defeats against Manchester City and Liverpool.
"Our performance was not convincing, defensively nor offensively.
"It's a very disappointing result and a very disappointing performance, the two go together and we have to regroup, come back to basics and prepare well for our next game."
Arsenal have flirted with failure to finish in the top four several times during the last decade but have always found enough to fend off their rivals.
They have an easier run-in than Everton but with confidence low and the likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil all injured, Wenger knows his side face a dogfight over the closing weeks of a campaign that is in danger of falling flat.
"I'm absolutely 100 per cent determined to fight to make the top four. But it will be difficult," Wenger said.
"We still have a programme that is feasible but we have first I think to focus on the quality of our performances before we dream of places. Let's get back to playing better than that.
"The fight is very open and is not even depending only on us. It's depending on Everton who are in a strong position. But the advantage we have is we have been confronted with that before and it's down to how we respond to such a disappointing performance."
Arsenal offered little fight against an Everton side hitting form at just the right time, but Wenger refused to criticise his players' spirit. "I wouldn't question the spirit of this team. They are focused, they want to do well," he said.
"I just feel they have lost something on the confidence front and that you could see. We looked a little bit disjointed when we had to run after the score."