Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville believes Arsenal’s ceiling in the Premier League is finishing fourth, and were they to achieve that this season, Mikel Arteta could seek a new challenge.
The Gunners have put themselves in the top-four driving seat following a disastrous start to the campaign, in which they lost their opening three games without scoring and sat bottom of the pile with a negative nine goal difference.
They then enjoyed an autumnal purple patch, going eight games undefeated and have now only lost two in their previous 13, which puts them fourth in the table, three points ahead of north London rivals Tottenham, and they have a game in hand on their local adversaries.
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Arsenal’s Champions League destiny is very much in their own hands as they seek to end their five-year absence from the competition, with this being their season since 1995/96 in which European football of any nature has eluded them.
However, even if Arsenal consolidate fourth and make their long-awaited return to Europe’s flagship competition, Neville believes Arteta could feel that his work at the Emirates is done, as they won’t be able to push on and genuinely challenge Liverpool or Manchester City for the title.
“I really like Mikel Arteta, I think he’s a brilliant coach. I think the team is fantastic in terms of the young players they’ve got,” Neville commented at a Sky Bet fan debate.
“But it’s interesting when you’re in a cycle of a club and you depress the ambition and have a significant period of failure because you then get really happy about finishing fourth.
“I found myself saying that about Manchester United. But it’s because of a depressed ambition.
“I think Mikel Arteta is a good operator. My concern is if Arsenal finish fourth this season – which to be fair, I think is 50/50, I still think there’s a long way to in that race – but if they finish fourth, that’s in some ways as good as it gets.
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“You’ve got Pep [Guardiola], [Jurgen] Klopp, Man United, Chelsea. Where can Arsenal go? They’re not going to compete.
“Mikel Arteta is a brilliant coach, I love that we’re seeing a team that he’s getting the maximum out of, I can see exactly how he wants to play, we all can.
“But he gets to fourth [and] if he was really hard about it, he’d probably say ‘right, that’s the best I can do there, I’m going now and getting my next job’.”