Mikel Arteta is “in an ejection seat” at Arsenal after the north London giants’ wretched start to the season, according to Robert Pires.

The Gunners headed into Saturday’s clash with Chelsea sitting a dismal 15th in the Premier League table after losing eight of their opening 14 games.

Former Arsenal hero Pires, a member of Arsene Wenger’s great ‘Invincibles’ squad, says it is hard to believe they have slumped so badly.

“I find it difficult to explain this situation,” Pires said, speaking to Ouest France.

“When you’re in a negative spiral, it’s very complicated to get out of it.”

Pires said the Chelsea game was set up to be “important for the future of the club”, and he has little doubt manager Arteta is fighting to stay in his job.

“I know him well. I know what he does, the training he sets up, what he would like his team to develop,” Pires said.

“But on the pitch, it does not work. I don’t like coaches being sacked but unfortunately that’s what happens when there are bad results. He’s in an ejection seat.”

Arsenal were hoping to maintain a strong record in Boxing Day fixtures, having not lost at home in 12 matches (W10 D2) on December 26 since going down 2-0 to Nottingham Forest in 1987 at Highbury.

Their run of nine consecutive home wins on Boxing Day includes a 2-1 win over Chelsea in 2001, when Pires played as Sol Campbell and Sylvain Wiltord scored for the Gunners.

Pires never experienced anything comparable to their recent struggles during his time at the club. Arsenal had not won in their last seven Premier League games (D2 L5) going into Saturday’s clash with Chelsea.

They were out to avoid going eight without a win, which would match their worst Premier League record, having experienced such a dry spell from November 1992 to January 1993.

“Today, Arsenal are playing to survive,” Pires said. “It’s hard to say, I never thought I would one day. We are talking about Arsenal after all.”