Mikel Arteta warns Arsenal must invest significantly to compete

Defeat at home against Liverpool could end their hopes of qualifying for Europa League

 Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal team host Premier League, European and world champions Liverpool tonight. File photograph: PA

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal team host Premier League, European and world champions Liverpool tonight. File photograph: PA

 

Mikel Arteta has warned Arsenal a return to the Champions League will become possible only if the club decide to “go for it” and invest significantly in the squad, with the stark alternative being an extended spell outside Europe’s elite.

Arsenal’s best outcome from a tumultuous season would be a fourth consecutive Europa League campaign, although defeat at home against Liverpool on Wednesday would almost certainly mean their hopes hinge on winning the FA Cup – they face Manchester City in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Arteta said in April they would be able to do “more, less or nothing” in the transfer market depending on their eventual finish, but made it clear only sizeable outlay would give them a fighting chance of eventually returning to the elite competition, given the extra spending power top-four clubs possess.

Asked how much more difficult Champions League qualification would be with each year out of the competition, he outlined the quandary Arsenal face. “Harder and harder, because that’s obviously something that has to feed each other,” he said. “If you are not in the Champions League and you say: ‘OK, I don’t invest because I don’t have the financial ability to do it,’ but the other clubs invest, then the gap becomes bigger. If I do want to invest and risk, and then I don’t reach it, what happens? So at some stage 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.”

Although it was not exactly an ultimatum, with Arteta clearly appreciative of the financial constraints ahead, the challenge seemed clear and he suggested other clubs had benefited from a bold approach. “You see many good examples of teams that have done it and they have come back to their habit [of Champions League football] on it,” he said.

Pressed on whether he felt the club could still attract top-quality players, he insisted their appeal had not faded – the implication being that, with the right money, he would be able to recruit appropriately.

“We’ve an incredible history, an incredible structure, in a beautiful city and a style of play that attracts players,” he said. “And I’m telling you now, because I am closer to the market now – when I speak to people, a lot of players want to play for Arsenal.”

The spell outside the Champions League is thought to have cost Arsenal about £100m and that figure will increase substantially now, even more so if there is no Europa League campaign to mitigate.

Arteta, who hinted he will make changes to the side that lost at Spurs on Sunday given Arsenal face their ninth game in four weeks, said talks about the club’s future direction would take place when the season is over.

“What we need to do at the end of the season is see the direction we want to take, agree on the ambition of the football club, realise that where we are the demands are going to be huge – that’s never going to change because it’s linked to our history and our success – and move from there,” he said.

- Guardian

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