Arsenal: How much will missing the Champions League affect Mikel Arteta’s summer makeover?

Mikel Arteta’s emotions over the past 10 days or so perfectly depict the moderate disappointment Arsenal will feel after dramatically tearing Champions League football from their grip.

After watching his side beat Everton 5-1 on the final day of the game, he admitted he was still in “huge pain” from the defeat at Newcastle, which effectively cost them a place in the top four.

But en route to the game, the Spaniard had said: “When we’re all on holiday and look back at what we’ve done, whether we’re in the Champions League or the Europa League, everyone will agree that we do more have done than was expected.’

Mikel Arteta is in 'pain' after Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League

Mikel Arteta is in ‘pain’ after Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League

Arteta is looking to expand his youthful side, including Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli

Arteta is looking to expand his youthful side, including Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli

That may be the case, but the majority of Gunners fans won’t accept anything like it or worse next season, and with the tight turnarounds of Thursday-Sunday games he’s struggling with in 2022-23, Arteta has to put up with his flimsy strengthen squad.

But just like assessing their season – progressing but ultimately missing a glorious opportunity – examining how a fifth-place finish in the Europa League will impact their ongoing rebuild in the transfer market is difficult to predict.

At first glance, the prospects don’t seem as fertile as they might have been. Champions League football would undoubtedly have accelerated the so-called ‘process’.

The Gunners’ Achilles’ heel this season has been their lack of a prolific goalscorer up front, with centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes scoring as many top-flight goals as any other Gunners forward this season.

Gunners fans have been pressuring their Kroenke owners to back the Spaniard this summer

Gunners fans have been pressuring their Kroenke owners to back the Spaniard this summer

You therefore need at least one attacker who can score more than 20 goals in a season. But it’s so often the case that these players want to play in Europe’s premier club competition.

That’s why reports of Tottenham’s interest in Man City striker Gabriel Jesus – a priority target for Arteta this summer – raise concerns when it comes to adding some much-needed quality to the squad.

Midfield and defense also need to be addressed and competition in these areas is arguably stiffer – particularly from the four clubs that have finished above them – as most of Europe’s elite have ranks set forward.

The likes of Yves Bissouma would be a smart signing but he has been linked with Liverpool in the past, while Youri Tielemans has also been on clubs’ radars regularly in the Champions League.

Youri Tielemans is a midfield target who has also been linked with Champions League clubs

Youri Tielemans is a midfield target who has also been linked with Champions League clubs

Bologna’s Scotland international Aaron Hickey is another reported target but he could see more playing time and better football in the other half of north London, for example.

Udinese’s Nahuel Molina is a promising right-back these days but even he has been linked with Champions League contenders Atletico Madrid and Juventus.

Additionally, they have once again looked at the bargain basement in Arsenal’s deal to date, with a deal set to be confirmed for young Brazilian winger Marquinhos for a fee of £3.5million.

Marquinhos is set to spend next season on loan no matter what and not all of the Gunners’ business will be conducted over other clubs’ contract instability this summer.

Still, it could spark fears among the most cynical and skeptical fans – dismayed by Arteta’s comments last week that the club does not have “unlimited funds” – that it could be a policy to fall back on if plan A does not go according to plan.

Meanwhile, Tottenham are reportedly set to challenge Arsenal for the signing of Gabriel Jesus

Meanwhile, Tottenham are reportedly set to challenge Arsenal for the signing of Gabriel Jesus

But beneath the surface, there are still many signs of a positive future. Some reports suggest the Gunners had not taken Champions League football for granted when planning their summer outings.

In theory, this means that the goals identified throughout the season fit financially within the budget approved by KSE (Kroenke Sports & Entertainment).

The above has highlighted how the Gunners could face competition for players they want to sign this summer, but the Europa League may not squash their chances of top quality, especially as strikers are not a key priority for the summer best clubs are.

Manchester City’s acquisition of Erling Haaland would suggest the search for a new striker is over, while Liverpool already had a plethora of attacking options ahead of Luis Diaz’s January signing.

Tottenham’s front three appear incredibly balanced and Chelsea could give them one more season before completely abandoning hope of Romelu Lukaku playing under Thomas Tuchel at the peak of his game.

The state of affairs appears to be largely the same across Europe. Kylian Mbappe has extended his contract at Paris Saint-Germain while Karim Benzema will remain first choice at Real Madrid next season despite turning 35 in December.

The Gunners are ready to confirm the £3.5million signing of Marquinhos from Sao Paulo

The Gunners are ready to confirm the £3.5million signing of Marquinhos from Sao Paulo

Juventus overtook Arsenal and signed Dusan Vlahovic in January, while Barcelona signed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the Gunners and Ansu Fati has since recovered.

The two potential threats come in the form of Bayern Munich, which could lose Robert Lewandowski, and Manchester United, which is beginning a rebuild of its own under new boss Erik ten Hag.

Given the German giants’ regular presence in the Champions League and Man United’s financial strength, they represent very real competition, especially when someone like Lautaro Martinez has been targeted by Inter Milan.

But Arsenal offer arguably the best opportunity for playing time in a World Cup year of the three, ultimately due to the current lack of competition for the central striker spot and with Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah also departing.

They will be just the latest departures from a squad that has been overhauled since Arteta’s arrival in December 2019, a process likely to continue with this summer’s departures of club-record signing Nicolas Pepe and goalkeeper Bernd Leno.

But forward recruits would be guaranteed starts with Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah both set to leave

But forward recruits would be guaranteed starts with Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah both set to leave

They’re unlikely to come anywhere near the £72m and £18m fees they paid for the duo, but if they settle an already pretty empty wage bill – after Aubameyang’s £350,000-a- Weekly wages have been axed – this will further boost the Gunners. Ability to recruit specific targets.

And what is arguably going to influence their thinking more than their Europa League status is the club’s concern when it comes to injuries and the future of the players.

Kieran Tierney missed another big chunk of the season following knee surgery and has played 30 Premier League games in a single season since joining from Celtic in 2019 through injury.

Thomas Partey’s fitness record at Emirates Stadium is also a concern after more hamstring problems this season and the Gunners hope the same does not happen to Takehiro Tomiyasu after his injury-plagued debut season in England.

Arsenal have also released payroll following the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal have also released payroll following the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

On the contract side of things sports mail It was revealed earlier this week that the Gunners are under pressure to include a release clause in any new deal they agree with Bukayo Saka, while Gabriel Martinelli is also in line for new terms.

William Saliba’s future after a successful loan spell at Marseille is also undecided and with two years left it’s another difficult situation for the club.

Should any doubts arise from the players’ injury records or doubts about an extension, that could be the biggest obstacle to rebuilding as Arteta publicly supports every player except Saliba.

The Gunners have undoubtedly made progress after two eighth-place finishes. But there’s no definitive indication of how their summer will go and that will leave fans of the club excited and nervous in equal measure.

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