Arsenal players and staff are becoming increasingly mystified by the decision making of manager Arsene Wenger as they now face a fight to make sure the club's season does not completely fall apart.

Rather than rip into his squad for the draw with Crystal Palace that finally ended any faint Premier League title dreams and left Arsenal battling to remain in the top four, Wenger gave the players who had failed to secure three points Monday off.

The decision was met with a sense of surprise and bewilderment, as Arsenal face a must-win game against West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates on Thursday night.

Arsenal's players had already been given Friday off before the Palace game, having been allowed to take Sunday and Monday off in the immediate aftermath of the 3-3 draw against West Ham United - in which the Gunners threw away a two-goal lead.

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With games coming thick and fast over the run-in, Wenger has been carefully managing the schedule of his players in an attempt to avoid more injury problems.

But the Frenchman has given his players four of the last nine days off, as Arsenal's season threatens to implode, leaving little time to work on problems at both ends of the pitch. The Gunners have conceded the most goals of the sides currently in the top four and also scored the least.

Wenger's training schedule is not the only thing that has raised questions within Arsenal recently, as his team selections and substitutions have also left players and staff members scratching their heads.

The 66-year-old preferred goalkeeper David Ospina to fit-again Petr Cech for the draw at West Ham, but, having praised the Colombian, then brought Cech back for the visit of Palace.

Cech was blamed in some quarters for Yannick Bolasie's equaliser, but the former Chelsea man insisted he could not keep the forward's shot out and would have not been helped by Gabriel turning his back on it.

Gabriel had been criticised for turning his back on Andy Carroll's acrobatic effort that deflected into the net off him a week earlier against West Ham, but Wenger decided to stick with Brazilian over Per Mertesacker.

It was a surprise that Wenger had not introduced Mertesacker as a substitute to help deal with Carroll at Upton Park and the German remained on the bench against Palace, despite Gabriel's poor recent form.

Wenger's substitutions over the past two games have also been a source of internal debate. With his team trailing 3-2 in the must-win game against West Ham, the manager's first change was to send on midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

Against Palace, Wenger introduced Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott but left Joel Campbell, who has made a positive impact on a number of occasions this season, on the bench.

Arsenal started 2016 top of the table, but have won two of their last seven Premier League games and are now 13 points behind leaders Leicester City.

Rather than dreaming of catching the Foxes, the Gunners will now spend their final five games attempting to cling on to a top-four place after falling behind third-placed Manchester City on goal difference and seeing fifth-placed United move four points behind them. Arsenal will almost certainly finish behind Tottenham Hotspur for the first time under Wenger.

The club are expected to keep faith with Wenger for the final year of his current contract, but failure to qualify for next season's Champions League would place huge pressure on him to quit.

Following last month's defeat to Swansea City, Cech, Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky called a heated players' inquest, which did not involve Wenger, in a bid to save their season.

And Mertesacker has now called on his team-mates to put their bodies on their line in the remaining five games to make sure the campaign does not end in disaster.

"It's about discipline," said Mertesacker. "We lacked a bit of that desperation, even when we were 2-0 up at West Ham, to defend and get everyone behind the ball.

"To come back to that level is absolutely important in the Premier League and if you don't you will get punished. These details are very important to us and everyone can see it, it is obvious.

"We want to win every single match now, to put teams in front of us under pressure. We have got the belief we can win every single one and that is the task from now on, to concentrate on the next one.

"Even when something is going against us in a game, we have to focus on ourselves and not get distracted by anything else.

"The focus and mindset is really important. There are fast changes, even in a single game and throughout the stretch of the season.

"We have to be ready and concentrate on ourselves and our games - anything can happen in football.

"We need to be there, when there is space and teams are dropping points. But that is not our business, we are just talking about ourselves and trying to win every single game."