Mikel Arteta agreed Arsenal must target for a return to the Champions League, or risk slipping further behind the Premier League’s top four. The Gunners will resume their top-flight campaign at Manchester City on Wednesday night, languishing ninth in the table, eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
And while Arteta admitted that it might take time to climb the table, he thinks it’s essential to fulfill the ambitions of both himself and the club.
Arteta said: “It has placed tremendous financial pressure on the club that we [the Champions League] didn’t get into Europe. We know what our main obligation is, and how much the financial situation we are in would ease, but we need to go game by game.”
Critical to saving the Gunners is an improvement on a miserable away record that has seen them struggle to defeat any of their major rivals since a 2-0 victory over City at Etihad Stadium five and a half years ago, in what was coincidentally Arteta’s final season as a player.
Drawings at Old Trafford and Everton this season have indicated a possible improvement for the better, but Arteta knows more progress – beginning at Wednesday’s Etihad back door – is imperative to crack the gap back to the top four.
Arteta added: “We know how hard it is to win against any rival in the Premier League, especially against the top six. But if you are going to play with this country’s big four, five or six clubs, a club like Arsenal can’t go too long without a victory. We need to quickly adjust that, feel confident in the ground just to achieve a mindset that should be.”
Arsenal’s return comes three months after Arteta became one of Britain’s first major name football personalities to reveal he’d tested positive for coronavirus, contributing to the postponement of the Gunners’ game against Brighton, and eventually to the season shutdown.
And Arteta remembered the moment he decided to announce that he was having the disease, effectively sparking a chain of events that would result in clubs ordering their stars to stay at home and following the government’s increasingly strict guidance.