Mikel Arteta has admitted the pressure is on Arsenal to make necessary changes right away or risk the Premier League’s top sides pulling further and further away.
But the Spaniard also knows he has another big problem because of the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis and its effect on the club’s already suffering transfer budget.
A number of Premier League sides have agreed wage deferrals with their players, but Arsenal are the only club to have persuaded its first-team squad to take a pay cut.
Long before the coronavirus crisis, senior official Josh Kroenke warned of the problem with having a ‘Champions League wage bill’ supported by a ‘Europa League budget’. With Arsenal likely to miss out on the elite competition for a fourth straight season, that is only going to worsen.
“The fact we’ve not been in the Champions League for the past three seasons has put an enormous amount of financial pressure on the club,” the Gunners boss conceded in a pre-game press briefing.
Arteta explained the club is “...trying to put a plan together to improve what we have. If we stand still, the gap to the top teams will get bigger and bigger. I haven’t come here to accept that, so now the challenge is to improve the squad in the right positions to give us the best chance to compete.
“The level of the big teams in this country is getting higher every year and if we want to compete with them, we have to change straight away,” he added.
But whether making those changes and getting the necessary players in the transfer market is even possible in the even more difficult new circumstances remains to be seen.
“The plans I had three months ago obviously didn't take into account the coronavirus and all the side effects that’s had,” Arteta said. “We know what we have to do to improve the team but whether we’ll still be able to do that in the way we want will be a different story.”
Arsenal remain heavily linked with Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, who has a €50m release clause. They have also been watching Feyenoord youngster Orkan Kokcu all season, although the latest gossip suggests he wants to stay put.