Mikel Arteta knows the likelihood of Arsenal qualifying for Europe via the Premier League is slipping away from the Gunners.
Defeat to Burnley saw Arteta’s side remain 10th, where they are eight points off fifth placed Everton and even further away from the Champions League spot.
Realistically the only way Arsenal can secure European football is by progressing in the Europa League this season – and that moment of truth is just days away.
“It’s really complicated at the moment,” said Arteta when asked whether European qualification via the Premier League has gone.
“It’s true that the feeling that I have with the way we are playing is that we can win any game, but as well, as you mentioned before, if you are giving something to the opponent, obviously the game is all the time on the line.
“This is where, in my opinion, we have the biggest margin of improvement. But anything can happen.”
Indeed, anything can happen. And as Granit Xhaka’s errant pass hit Chris Wood giving Burnley an equaliser at Turf Moor, a stark reminder of Arsenal’s inability to kill games off at a crucial part of the season.
Two seasons again the Gunners had revealed that they received £37million in revenue distribution from participating in the Europa League. That figure will be much less this campaign unless they can reach the final in Gdansk.
The games against Olympiacos – an opponent Arteta knows well from last season – will provide another tough encounter. Pedro Martins’ side scored a late winner to progress past PSV but they remain a counter attacking threat and possess former Arsenal defender Sokratis in their ranks.
It cannot be understated how damaging a season without European football could be to the club. Whilst the prize money will be affected by not participating, commercial revenues are likely to take a dip too.
Over twenty of Europe’s biggest clubs lost more than €1bn in revenue over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic – and missing out on Europe’s second-tier competition in the same year they have announced post-tax loss of £47.8 million for the year ending 31 May 2020.
With a wage bill in the region of £230million, further player sales are likely this summer although there would be a reduction in performance-related bonus payments if the Gunners did fail to qualify for Europe.
The likes of Alexandre Lacazette and David Luiz are on high salaries, with the Frenchman heading into the final year of his deal and the former Chelsea defender out of contract in the summer.
It would almost certainly affect player recruitment too and technical director Edu will have his work cut out to bring high-calibre players to a club who aren’t playing in any European competition.
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Arsenal face Olympiacos next Thursday before hosting a north London derby at home to Tottenham three days later. They play the Europa League return leg the following Thursday in a week which will determine their European hopes over the next year.
Last season it was Aubameyang’s miss which haunted the team before they were knocked out by Olympiacos. Everything is on the line for the Gunners when they travel to Athens next week in what is now the most important game of Arsenal’s season.