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Arsenal face series of shootouts for their future at the top level | Nick Ames

Mikel Arteta is about to find out who can handle the pressure with players’ futures at stake, starting against Liverpool

The refrain has become familiar, even exhausting. Since mid-February every week in the life of Arsenal has been laced with the same jeopardy: the sense that, should things go awry, the season will lie in tatters and Mikel Arteta will be forced to continue his rebuild on an emaciating diet of crumbs.

Nothing has changed over the international break. Arsenal return to the regimen of what Arteta has willingly come to term “finals” and, should they manage to negotiate each length of tightrope, it will remain that way until late May. Defeating Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday night appears mandatory if any heat is to be kept on the top flight’s European spots; avoiding a first-leg headache against Slavia Prague five days later would bring them within three games of a genuine Europa League final in Gdansk and a chance to render all that domestic hassle unnecessary.

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