Mikel Arteta "needs top four" this season as Arsenal splash big in summer window

Arsenal legend Nigel Winterburn believes Mikel Arteta "needs" a top-four finish this coming season.

The Gunners came agonisingly close to qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 season. Only a meltdown at the end of the campaign saw them finish two points behind bitter north London rivals Tottenham, which extended Arteta's run outside of Europe's top competition to three-and-a-half seasons.

However, there were huge positives on display throughout the year, which showed the Spaniard's message was clearly getting through to players as they performed to a high level in flashes. But former left-back Winterburn, who has backed Arteta's process, thinks the Gunners blew the "perfect" opportunity by losing too often.

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Talking to Bet365 on behalf of Daily Star Sport, the Arsenal icon said: "He had a lot of players to move and start to build a squad which he is still doing. I said it openly, at the start of last season I did not think we would get top four.

"But it was the perfect scenario for Arteta because there was no European Football, so he could work with the players a lot which you need to do as a young manager, establish a style of play.

"After Christmas, the position they got themselves into, they should have finished fourth. It was a great position. But they didn't deliver in certain games when they needed to.

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"There were several games, but Arteta knows and that will be his biggest regret. Transfers, consistency, home form was good but far too many losses last season."

Arsenal lost 13 times in the league last season, meaning Champions League qualification would have been an extremely lucky feat. Five of those came in the last 10 games of the season as legs grew weary and key players like Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey were sidelined through untimely injuries.

Arteta and technical director Edu have sought to remedy their extremely thin squad which ultimately proved their downfall by starting the summer transfer window on the front foot. They have already secured playmaker Fabio Vieira from Porto for £34million and are also looking to land the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Raphinha.

Winterburn claimed that will aid the Gunners' chances of securing Champions League qualification, either by finishing in the top-four or winning the Europa League. But he admitted Arteta cannot fall short again after being backed in the transfer market.

Winterburn explained: "He can't do that again and challenge for the top four, the league will be stronger again this season. I like what he's doing but there's still one or two sitting on the fence, thinking we need to see more from the manager.

"But with Europa League this season to add to the confusion, he's going to have to rotate players, hence why we need a bigger squad. I would think he needs top-four this season."


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