Mikel Arteta says Arsenal have to take a risk in the transfer market or they face being left behind by other clubs with Champions League ambitions.
Having spent big money last summer trying to assemble a squad capable of finishing in the top four, things haven’t really gone to plan for the Gunners in the last 12 months. And they might be about to get worse.
While playing Europa League football has been damaging for the club’s brand and finances in the last three years, the prospect of having no European football at a time when football is coming to terms with the Covid-19 situation is enough to cause the club’s bigwigs a few sleepless nights.
In the eyes of Arteta, who assumed control in December but has struggled to arrest the decline despite a slight upturn in performances, the club has to be bold again.
Facing the media ahead of Wednesday’s clash with champions Liverpool, the Spaniard was asked if it’s increasingly difficult to secure a place in the Champions League the longer you’re out of it.
“It’s harder and harder because that’s obviously something that has to fit each other,” he said.
“You are not in the Champions League and because you are not in the Champions League, you say, ‘Okay, I don’t invest because I don’t have the financial ability to do it’. But the other clubs invest and then the gap becomes bigger.
“If I do want to invest and [take the] risk and then I don’t reach it, what happens? That’s the mistake.
“You have to make a decision, whether I want to aim to make that gap closer and go for it or I stay where I am.
“You can see many good examples of teams that have done it [by taking a risk] and they have come back to there [the Champions League], that way.”
Whether Arsenal chooses to invest or not is a decision that will be made higher up the chain of command. With that in mind, Arteta says his sole focus at the moment is doing his best with what he’s got before trying to formulate a new plan based on whatever route the club takes.
“What I need to do is to do my work as good as possible, improve this team and the players individually as much as possible and get the maximum out of them,” he said.
“Then at the end of the season, we need to look at the direction we want to take, agree on the ambition of the football club, realise that where we are the demands are still going to be huge – it doesn’t matter what we do, that’s never going to change because it’s linked to our history and our success – and then move from there and put a plan together where we can achieve that as quick as possible.”
If Arsenal fail to finish in the Premier League’s top seven, next season will be the first since 1995/96 without European football. Despite that, the boss says he’ll always consider Arsenal to be a Champions League club while he’s at the helm and insists there is going to be no problem attracting top players.
On what makes the club appealing, he said: “Because it has an incredible history, an incredible structure in a beautiful city and a style of play that attracts players. I’m telling you now, I’m close to the market and when I speak to people, a lot of players want to play football for Arsenal still.”
Whether we can afford them or not is the million-dollar question.