Arsenal's players and management held clear-the-air talks at the club's Colney training complex on Sunday to digest the team's thrashing at Chelsea and focus on reviving the club's ailing title challenge against Swansea City in midweek.
The capitulation in Arsène Wenger's 1,000th game in charge left Arsenal seven points adrift of their London rivals before Tuesday's visit of Swansea, and the manager is concerned at the manner in which his team have surrendered so meekly against the elite teams. The Frenchman has seen his team ship six goals at Manchester City and Chelsea, and five at Liverpool, all in Saturday lunchtime kick-offs, to leave their attempts to secure a first title since 2004 apparently forlorn before City's visit to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Wenger had revealed after Saturday's humiliation that he and his squad had "to think deeply about [the loss] because it is not the first time" they had disintegrated in such a manner, with the manager accepting responsibility for the embarrassment. His players reported back for a light warm-down session on Sundayand, while team meetings are not unusual after games, the issues thrown up by the crippling disappointment across the capital were discussed as a group with key games to come.
"I don't think our chances are over," said the club captain, Thomas Vermaelen. "There are still a few games to play and, in England, you can do anything. I've learned that. You can easily come back even from behind. The teams are all so strong that anyone can beat anyone, so we must continue to believe in it and move on."
Vermaelen is expected to start against the Welsh club with Laurent Koscielny suffering from a calf complaint that forced him off at half-time on Saturday, though Arsenal may have both Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain available for the match despite the full-back's farcical sending off in the midfielder's stead.
Gibbs was dismissed by the referee, Andre Marriner, for deliberate handball after it was deemed he had denied Chelsea a clear goalscoring opportunity, despite the fact it was Oxlade-Chamberlain who had touched Eden Hazard's 15th-minute shot round the post. That case of mistaken identity will be rectified on Monday, though Arsenal also intend to appeal against the midfielder's prospective one-match ban given Hazard's shot appeared to be flying wide and was therefore not a scoring chance.
Marriner, who had ignored Oxlade-Chamberlain's admission of guilt on the pitch, apologised to Wenger and Gibbs once he had been made aware of his error and will discover on Monday whether he is to officiate in the top flight next weekend. The visitors were already 2-0 down at the time and went on to concede another four goals to register the joint-heaviest defeat of Wenger's tenure in his landmark match.
"It leaves it in a very bad situation," said Wenger. "But we want to respond. When you don't turn up in a game of that stature, nobody takes it easy. We have to win the next game and focus on that, to give a strong response. It is going to be tough now, very, very tough, but we have to respond quickly because we are in a situation where, after such a disappointment, the next games become vital.
"We felt we prepared properly with the intensity we did but we did not turn up for our game of the season, so it is puzzling. We were never even in it. After 20 minutes it was game over and it became a long afternoon, a long, dramatic, dreadful afternoon. We were shocked and knocked down. The team is healthy and willing but still the way it happened … we have to think deeply about it because it's not the first time. You could blame and blame but it does not help. What is important now is weshow we have the capacity to respond."
Wenger, who has cancelled his pre-match media duties on Monday, has an FA Cup semi-final against Wigan Athletic to come and is still expected to sign a new contract at Arsenal at the end of the season, with his current deal running down to its conclusion.
Yet there is a recognition within his squad that some steel must be mustered before Saturday's game against City, with a response against Swansea vital to rebuild confidence.
"I don't know why but it looks like we don't fancy early kick-offs away," said Per Mertesacker. "It looks like we are going to have to apply to the Football Association to not play at 12.45 away. That would help us a lot. But we must put this behind us now show our character and bounce back against Swansea. It's a good opportunity to react quickly after this result."