Mikel Arteta has admitted that Arsenal must aim for a return to the Champions League, or risk falling further behind the top four of the Premier League.
The Gunners are resuming their top-flight campaign on Wednesday night at Manchester City, languishing ninth in the table, eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
And while Arteta admitted it might take time to climb the table, he believes it’s essential to fulfil both himself and the club’s ambitions.
Arteta said: “The fact that we [the Champions League] didn’t get into Europe has put enormous financial pressure on the club.
“We know what our ultimate responsibility is, and how much that will relax the financial position we are in, but we must go game by game.
“We know the target and we know it’s difficult because there’s a lot of clubs involved in the fight, but we’ve got to give it a go and believe we can.
“In the last three years, we have not been able to attain the goals we want. There’s a reason behind it and obviously if we stand still, that gap will get bigger and I haven’t come here to accept or do that.”
Arteta also recalled the moment he decided to announce that he had the coronavirus illness, effectively sparking a chain of events that would result in clubs ordering their stars to stay at home and following the increasingly strict guidance from the government.
“I was thinking about the night that I started having some symptoms, how serious that was,” Arteta said. “It was a matter of not being able to make a decision, it had to be reported because I could put a lot of people at risk.
“I did not want to do that. I love the game but we’ve got bigger responsibilities. I think we made the right call and the right decision and you’ve got to say that the authorities and the Premier League have done the same.
Now, Arsenal’s return comes three months, after Arteta became one of Britain’s first big name football figures to announce that he had tested positive for coronavirus, leading to the postponement of the Gunners’ game against Brighton, and ultimately to the shutdown of the season.
Key to the recovery of the Gunners is an improvement on a dismal away record that has seen them fail to surmount any of their major rivals since a 2-0 win over City at Etihad Stadium five and a half years ago, in what was coincidentally Arteta’s final season as a player.
This season’s drawings at Old Trafford and Everton have suggested a potential change for the better, but Arteta knows more success – starting at the Etihad back door on Wednesday – is imperative to break that gap back to the top four.
Arteta added: “We know how hard it is to win away against any opponent and against the top six in the Premier League.
“But when you want to compete with the big four, five or six teams in this country, a club like Arsenal can’t be that long without a win.
“We need to change that immediately, feel comfortable in the ground just to win a mentality that should be.
“That’s how we’re going to travel to Manchester, knowing how hard the opponent is, how good they ‘re, but focusing on what we can do and control.”