Theo Walcott has revealed Arsenal’s players held a morale-boosting meeting in a bid to save their faltering season.
Things have gone awry for Arsene Wenger’s men since being tipped for a first Premier League crown since 2004 just before Christmas.
That now looks unlikely, though, as the Gunners are eight points off surprise leaders Leicester with just 11 matches remaining.
The alarming dip in form led Arsenal’s senior players to act in the wake of last week’s 2-1 home defeat to Swansea, with Petr Cech, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky organising a players’ meeting.
It is a move that appears to have had the desired effect, with a spirited 2-2 draw at rivals Tottenham followed on Tuesday by a 4-0 FA Cup fifth-round replay win at Hull that secured safe progress to the quarter-finals.
“We are not going to lie – we know as a unit it has been tough and we all had a good chat amongst us behind closed doors, without even any of coaches or the manager knowing about anything,” said Walcott, who, like Olivier Giroud, netted twice at the KC Stadium.
“It is important that as a team (to know) we have got it in us.
“We just have to produce it more often. You had a sense of the Tottenham game especially, when you go down to 10 men in a big game like that, the belief and the character was there.
“The never-give-up spirit was there as well. In the derby matches, they could be the matches that turn your season and we may have turned the corner.
“We have quite a lot of experienced players in the dressing room. It came from Cech, Mikel, Per and Tomas. We have four good old heads there.
“I’d like to keep what was said among ourselves but it was very important. We have had a reaction from it.
“(Wenger) probably knows about it anyway. The manager respects the players’ privacy and what is happening personally among us all.
“It was a meeting to express how everyone was feeling, basically, and it worked.”
While beating a much-changed Championship side is not the greatest yardstick with which to measure progress, the win at Hull keeps Arsenal’s hopes of winning a third straight FA Cup alive.
A hastily arranged quarter-final at home Watford now awaits on Sunday, which the Gunners approach buoyed by victory at the KC Stadium.
“It was a confidence boost to everyone that it was good (on Tuesday night),” Walcott added. “We want to stay in this competition because it is massive for us.
“We want to make those history books and try to push on to Wembley and do it on the third occasion but we have got a big test against Watford first.”
The Gunners started that run of cup successes with an enthralling 3-2 comeback win over Hull in the 2014 finale.
Tuesday’s loss saw the Tigers knocked out of the FA Cup by Wenger’s men for the third straight season – a disappointment tempered by the fact Steve Bruce’s side can now focus on getting back to the top flight.
Hull sit fourth in the Championship following the midweek results but remain close to the automatic promotion spots and have two matches in hand on leaders Burnley.
“Promotion is the aim,” Bruce said. “We’ve got it all to play for.
“We’ve got a really, really exciting few weeks ahead, with all to play for. Let’s bring it on.
“You can’t rely on other people. You’ve got to accumulate the points and I’ve said all along it’ll be a lot of points this term.
“We got up with 76 three years ago, but that won’t be enough. We’ve got seven at home, five away and all to play for.”