A man who once tasted Premier League title glory with the Gunners believes Champions League qualification can be secured in 2020-21
Robert Pires has boldly declared that Arsenal can secure a top-four finish this season, with the Gunners great claiming that the future looks bright again at Emirates Stadium under Mikel Arteta.
Questions have been asked in 2020-21 of whether a north London heavyweight has the right man at the helm.
Arsenal got off to their worst start to a season since 1974-75, leading to inevitable pressure being piled onto the shoulders of an inexperienced coach.
Arteta has, however, worked his way through those struggles to start clearing the squad’s deadwood and collect 16 Premier League points from the last 18 on offer.
A home date with Manchester United is next on the agenda, with the Gunners entering that contest sat seven points adrift of the Champions League places.
Pires, who once formed part of the fabled ‘Invincibles’ side at Highbury, believes Arteta can deliver a return to elite European competition for a side that appeared a long way short of that target at one stage.
The Frenchman has told The Sun: “Mikel is young and needs time to implement his ideas but I believe that once he has built his team, Arsenal will be competitive and ready to go toe-to-toe with the great English clubs.
“It’s hard, but I would not even rule out that they finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League this year, because things change quickly in the league.
“If I see Liverpool having tough periods, I’m telling myself there is an opportunity for Arsenal to grab [points]. They only need to get back to winning ways and then maintain the consistency. Then anything can happen.
“It’s imperative the supporters stay patient because Arsenal are in transition but the club’s future under Arteta looks bright.”
Along with finding stability off the field, Pires is also looking for Arsenal to progress on it – with academy graduates very much at the heart of those plans.
Bukayo Saka has been tied to a contract through to 2024 after bursting onto a senior stage, with the Gunners now being urged to thrash out similar terms with Emile Smith Rowe.
World Cup winner Pires added: “I want to see Arsenal win the league because that was always the club’s priority.
“Now, it’s little by little. The club needs to have a proper structure in place, a blend of young and experienced players.
“Players with experience are important to keep the balance in the team and help the young ones fulfil their potential.
“I like the youthful exuberance and freshness of the academy players coming through. The number of home-grown players ruffling feathers in the first team is really positive.
“Smith Rowe and Saka can make a big impact and the club must, at all costs, offer them long-term contracts.
“Emile and Bukayo came through the youth academy, have shown they have the quality to hold their own and they love Arsenal.
“Their love for the shirt is important and the board must do whatever it takes to keep hold of them.
“They are Arsenal’s future but there are going to be difficulties. That’s why adding experienced players is of paramount importance.”