Champions League return is key to keep pace with top-flight elite – Mikel Arteta


Arteta believes it is essential in order to fulfil the ambitions of both himself and the club.

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 on Wednesday night languishing in ninth place in the table, 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 both himself and the club.

Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta starred in the Champions League as a player for Arsenal (Nick Potts/PA)

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.

“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.

Arsenal v Olympiakos – UEFA Europa League – Round of 32 – Second Leg – Emirates Stadium
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will lead the Gunners’ charge at Manchester City (John Walton/PA)

“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.”

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.

Manchester City v Arsenal – Premier League – Etihad Stadium
Arsenal will seek a rare win at the Etihad Stadium (Nick Potts/PA)

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 an 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.”

Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta revealed he was suffering from coronavirus in March (John Walton/PA)

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’ game against Brighton, 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.”