Mikel Arteta has said Champions League qualification would be a “game changer” for Arsenal and insisted they can still seal a top four spot despite a dismal run of three successive defeats.
Arsenal travel to Chelsea on Wednesday seeking their first win in a month having dropped to sixth place in the Premier League, three points behind north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, albeit with a game-in-hand.
Arsenal have not qualified for Europe’s premier club competition since 2016-17 and when asked by ESPN what difference it would make, Arteta said: “Champions League brings, first of all, the club much closer to where we want and to play in a competition that has a huge history in relation to our club.
“Secondly, obviously it improves every situation with the sponsor, financially, expectations, the capacity to grow our players and expose them into a different dimension of a competition and this is where we want to be. It is a game changer. The Champions League pushes you there with the best teams in Europe and we definitely want to be there.”
In addition to longer-term absentees Kieran Tierney (knee) and Thomas Partey (thigh), Arsenal have doubts over Takehiro Tomiyasu (calf) and Alexandre Lacazette, who tested positive for COVID-19 and missed Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Southampton.
Lacazette gave an interview to Canal Plus in which he discussed a desire to play Champions League football next season with his Arsenal contract due to expire at the end of the season.
The Premier League club plan to sit down with the 30-year-old this summer to discuss his future, but Arteta said they may have missed the opportunity to seal an agreement given he can talk freely with overseas clubs.
“First of all, it is not about me, it is about we as a club, the decision that we made with individuals, the collective, with the future and how we plan things,” Arteta said.
“We made that decision to understand better and have a clearer picture of what we want to do in the summer.
“It is the agreement that we made with him, that was our position and out position remains the same, that is what we are going to do.
“The risk of that happening [Lacazette signing a deal with another club], it was always there since the moment we made that decision, then it is up to him. It is not up to us or him it is up to both parties.”
Eddie Nketiah is also a free agent this summer and has turned down multiple offers to stay at Arsenal, voicing his frustration over a lack of game time.
“We could have opted for a completely different approach and played him even less, or don’t give him any opportunity and don’t put him in the squad,” Arteta added.
“We have treated every player with the duty we have. They are our players, we want to get the best out of them. With Eddie I said many times, as well, how much I rate him, the fact that we have big plans for him in this club for the future. This is where we are today and we have to accept that reality.”