Arsenal must target Champions League return warns Arteta

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Mikel Arteta has admitted Arsenal must target a return to the Champions League or run the risk of falling further behind the Premier League’s top four.

The Gunners resume their top-flight campaign at Manchester City tonight (Wednesday) in ninth place, eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

And while Arteta acknowledged it may take time to climb the table, he believes it is essential in order to fulfil the ambitions of himself and the club.

Arteta said: “The fact we haven’t got into Europe [the Champions League] has put enormous pressure on the club in financial terms.

“We know what our responsibility is at the end and how much that will relax the financial position that we’re in, but we have to go game by game.

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“We know the target and we know the difficulty of it it because there are a lot of clubs involved in the fight. But we have to give it a go and believe that we can do it.

“We haven’t been able to achieve the goals we want in the last three years. There’s a reason behind it and if we stand still, obviously, that gap will be getting bigger and I haven’t come here to accept or do that.”

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Key to the Gunners’ recovery is an improvement to a dismal away record which has seen them fail to overcome any of their major rivals since a 2-0 win over City at the Etihad Stadium five and a half years ago, in what was coincidentally Arteta’s final season as a player.

Draws at Old Trafford and Everton this season have hinted at a potential change for the better but Arteta knows further success – starting at the behind-closed-doors Etihad on Wednesday – is imperative to breaching that gap back to the top four.

Arteta added: “We know how difficult it is to win away in the Premier League against any opponent and against the top six.

“But a club like Arsenal cannot be that long without winning if you want to compete with the big four, five or six teams in this country.

“We have to change that straight away, feel comfortable being away in the ground just to win and that should be the mentality.

“That is the way we will travel to Manchester, knowing how difficult the opponent is, how good they are, but focusing on what we can do and what we can control.”

Arsenal’s return comes three months after Arteta became one of the first big-name football figures in Britain to announce he had tested positive for coronavirus, leading to the postponement of the Gunners’ March 11 game at City, and ultimately to the season shutdown.

And Arteta recalled the moment he decided to announce that he had the illness, effectively sparking a chain of events which would lead to clubs ordering their stars to stay at home and follow the increasingly strict government guidance.

“I thought about the night I started to have some symptoms, how serious that was,” said Arteta. “It was a matter that I could not make a decision, it had to be reported because I could put at risk a lot of people.

“I wasn’t willing to do that. I love this game but we have bigger responsibilities. I think we made the right call and the right decision, and you have to say the authorities and the Premier League did as well.”

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