Jesse Marsch vowed his Leeds United side will “fight for our lives” after dropping into the Premier League relegation zone with a 2-1 loss to Arsenal on Sunday.
Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier gifted Eddie Nketiah an early opener, and the Arsenal striker, who spent 2019-20 on loan at Elland Road, added a second with just 10 minutes played.
The visitors inflicted more damage on themselves after 27 minutes when Luke Ayling, making the 500th appearance of his career, was sent off for lunging in on Gabriel Martinelli.
Diego Llorente did manage to pull one back through Leeds’ first effort on target in the 66th minute, but they were ultimately left with too much to do.
A second loss in a row for Leeds, coupled with Everton’s 2-1 win at Leicester City, means they will end the day in the bottom three for the first time since October 30.
Leeds have spent 16 days in the relegation zone this season – five fewer than Arsenal, who made a poor start to the season with three defeats in a row.
Marsch accepts Leeds were victims of their own mistakes at Emirates Stadium but is hopeful his side will respond in their remaining three fixtures.
“I think we had a really bad start and dug a hole for ourselves, which we didn’t need to,” Marsch, who succeeded Marcelo Bielsa in late February, told BBC Sport.
“At half-time we talked about keeping our composure and treating the game like it was 0-0. That’s what we did.
“We are in a difficult situation. We have to regroup and figure out what we can do. Our backs are against the wall. We are in the relegation zone, but we have to fight for our lives.
“When I arrived two months ago I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. The group’s stayed strong. Our second-half performance highlights the character of the people we have.
“The fans and the support at this club is unreal. We want to put a performance on the pitch that honours that support.”
With their 95th and 96th yellow cards of the season, Leeds set a record for the most bookings for a club in a single Premier League campaign.
They now host Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion in successive home games before travelling to Brentford on the final day of the season.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have won four successive league games while conceding at least once each time for the first time since a run of five in February and March 2012.
Following Tottenham’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday, the Gunners now hold a four-point lead over their fierce rivals in the battle for fourth place.
Should Arsenal make it five top-flight wins a row by beating Spurs on Thursday, they will secure a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17.
“We know that, and we have earned the right to play that game in that context,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, who signed a contract extension this week, told BBC Sport.
“Winning any match is extremely difficult. We are going to prepare for the game as best as we can.
“We started extremely well today and were determined, creating chance after chance. And then playing against 10 men it is always more complicated.
“We controlled the game really well. It became nervy, and you start to defend that result.”
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