Mikel Arteta happy to use Champions League ambition for Arsenal recruitment
Mikel Arteta insisted he has no regrets over luring Willian to Arsenal last August with ambitious plans of winning the Champions League over the course of the Brazilian’s time at the club.
Willian, 32, revealed after joining Arsenal from London rivals Chelsea that he was convinced to sign a three-year deal by Arteta’s grand vision of qualifying for the Champions League and winning the competition before he left.
But it has been a largely dispiriting season for the Gunners, who can finish no higher than seventh ahead of their Premier League season finale against Brighton on Sunday afternoon, while Willian himself as flattered to deceive.
The forward only opened his account earlier this month by scoring the last goal in a 3-1 win against West Brom, but Arteta is unrepentant about setting lofty goals, believing them to be worthwhile for a club of Arsenal’s stature.
“It cannot be any other ambition at this football club, it cannot be,” he said. “If you don’t have that we won’t reach it.
“There’s only one winner in the Champions League and there is only one winner in the Premier League, the rest of the teams have failed. For any of the other teams finishing second or third is not a big achievement.”
Finishing in the Premier League top-four is unlikely to satisfy many supporters but doing so would be considered acceptable in boardrooms, according to Arteta, who thinks Champions League qualification is now harder than ever.
Arteta pointed out that Leicester’s 62 points was enough to finish fifth last season but the Foxes, who currently occupy the same position, have already achieved that tally ahead of their final fixture of the campaign.
“Now the perception is different, now it’s an achievement to be third or fourth in this league,” the Arsenal boss said.
“Would the fans agree with that? Probably not, but the people internally that are working every day and know the standards that have been set is so different.
“Last year with 62 points, you are fifth in the league and almost in the Champions League. This season you won’t be there and next season you won’t be there because the level is increasing all the time.”
Arteta admitted this summer’s European Championship will likely hinder him, and every other manager, in the transfer market.
“It would be ideal to do everything as early as possible,” he added. “But that’s not going to happen, we have the Euros and everything is going to be delayed, there are that many things to be done and that will take time.”