MIKEL ARTETA has challenged Arsenal’s owners to match his big-time ambitions as the club faces a fourth year without Champions League football.
The demanding Spaniard fears a summer transfer freeze will make it almost impossible for him to compete at the top end of the table.
And he made it clear he is not prepared to accept a situation which will leave Arsenal in danger of dropping even further behind the Premier League’s title contenders.
The Gunners boss warned: “Every year we are out of the Champions League makes it harder than ever to get back into that competition.
“If you are not in the Champions League and you say ‘I don’t invest in the team because I don’t have the financial ability to do it’ then the gap becomes bigger to the other clubs that do invest.
“So at some stage you have to decide whether you take a risk and go for it to close that gap or whether you stay where you are.
“At the end of the season we need to sit down and agree on the ambitions of the club, what direction we want to take and put a plan together to achieve those targets.
“The demands will be huge and that’s never going to change because they’re linked to the history and success of this club.
“But as long as I am sitting in this manager’s chair, I will not stop thinking of Arsenal as a Champions League club.”
Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Spurs means Arsenal will end the season with their lowest points total since 1995.
And it leaves them facing the prospect of not even qualifying for the Europa League after dropping to ninth in the table ahead of tonight’s home game against champs Liverpool.
You have to decide whether you take a risk and go for it to close that gap
That would see the club struggling with an £80million black hole which would severely hamper Arteta’s plans to overhaul his under-performing side.
Yet he has no doubts Europe’s top players are still keen to move to the Emirates.
He said: “When I speak to people in the market, a lot of players want to play for Arsenal.
“Why? Because we have an incredible history, an incredible structure, we’re in a beautiful city and have a style of play that attracts players.”
Arteta believes Liverpool are the perfect template for Arsenal to copy after watching the way Jurgen Klopp transformed the club during his five years in charge.
Arteta added: “What they have done is phenomenal. It took them some time to rebuild the squad with a new culture, philosophy and game model but they were really smart in the way they recruited.
“The moment Liverpool addressed the spine of their team, things changed dramatically.
“You get one of the best defenders in the world with the best goalkeeper and one of the best holding midfielders and it’s a quick fix.
“The same thing happened straight away at Manchester City when they signed Aymeric Laporte.”
Arteta is likely to rest some players tonight with one eye on Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against City.
He complained: “This is our ninth game in a month and we only had the recovery advantage in one, against Spurs.
“The other teams have had 24, 36 and even 48 hours more time to rest.”