Mikel Arteta has urged the Arsenal hierarchy to give him the funds to strengthen his squad in the summer or risk seeing the club fall further away from the Premier League’s leading clubs.
Arsenal expect to be operating with a severely limited transfer budget this summer amid the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on football finances. Independent analysis from the club’s supporters trust calculated that the Gunners’ losses could reach £144million if next season sees matches behind closed doors for the entirety of the campaign.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak Arsenal had been facing financially strained circumstances. Head of football Raul Sanllehi invested heavily last summer, breaking the club’s record to sign Nicolas Pepe from Lille for £72million, but Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League in the round of 32 and are struggling to qualify for the Champions League, which would bring the riches and prestige Arteta needs to reinvigorate his squad.
Sanllehi still hopes to strengthen the squad – Thomas Partey of Atletico Madrid is a prime candidate as Arteta eyes physicality and composure in midfield – but getting deals across the line could prove to be exceptionally complex for Arsenal, who must make up a four point gap to the Champions League qualifying spots.
Amid much financial uncertainty across the rest of the league Chelsea have stolen a march on their rivals, activating the £53million release clause in Timo Werner’s RB Leipzig contract at a time when Liverpool, long viewed as frontrunners for the German international, felt unable to spend heavily.
Manchester City and Manchester United both have the financial muscle to allow them to make deals once the season is over and Arteta is insistent that his side cannot afford to be left behind.
“We are trying to put a plan together to improve what we have,” he said. “We haven’t been able to achieve the goals we have wanted in the last three years and there is a reason behind it.
“If we stand still that gap will become bigger and bigger. I haven’t come here to accept that. The challenge for us is to improve the players we already have and find ways to improve the squad in the right positions to give us the best possible chance to compete at that level.
“It’s getting higher and higher every year.”
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If Arsenal are to increase their transfer budget then qualifying for the Champions League is vital. Doing so would provide them with a sizeable financial boost, with around £50million available for clubs who reach the last 16 of that competition compared to Europa League finalists.
To do so Arsenal may only need to finish fifth with Manchester City suspended from the Champions League for two seasons, subject to an appeal to CAS. If the Gunners were to beat the Citizens on Wednesday night then the gap between Arteta’s side and a top five place would be just a point.
Arteta said: “The fact that we’ve not been in the Champions League for the past three seasons has put an enormous amount of pressure on the club in financial terms. We know our responsibility and the aims – and how much that would relax the financial position that we are in.
“But we have to go game by game. It is not achievable in one or two games. It’s a process over 11 games that we have.
“We know the target, the difficulty of the task because there are a lot of clubs in that fight. We have to give it a go and believe that we can do it.”