Mikel Arteta admits he feels a “responsibility” to get Arsenal into Europe next season.
Arteta is facing the biggest week of his reign as Arsenal boss as they travel to Sheffield United on Sunday and then Slavia Prague for their Europa League second leg next Thursday.
Arsenal are stranded in mid-table, they now face an uphill battle to get past Slavia Prague after conceding an away goal which leaves them facing the prospect of having no European football next season for the first time since 1995/96.
That would leave Arteta’s hopes for a major rebuild this summer in serious danger without the much-needed millions from a European campaign and his under-performing squad clearly needs an overhaul.
Liverpool and Chelsea both had seasons out of Europe and reaped the benefits from better results domestically but Arteta knows the pressure is building from Arsenal fans, although he views it rather differently.
Arteta said: “It is not pressure – it is our responsibility. The club we represent has high demands and that is the minimum we can ask for and we have to, over time, work to deliver those goals because it is what we get asked for.
“We go back to what we used to say when those teams were in a position not to qualify for Europe we are talking about similar things.
“It is true there are some really good examples of teams that were rebuilding their teams and it helped them in their project, but I would rather be in Europe.”
When quizzed what would happen if Arsenal missed out on Europe, Arteta added: “Too many ifs! What if we qualify for Europe and win the Europa League? I prefer to think like that.”
Arsenal remain committed to Arteta and, even if they go out to Slavia Prague and finish mid-table, the feeling is they will give him next season to build for the long term.
The bigger concern is whether the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will respond to his methods, having been dropped on the back of a string of bad performances.
But Arsenal have spent big in the market and it has become a myth that the owners do not back the management. They broke the record for Nicolas Pepe for £72m two years ago and also went out on a limb to pay £45m for Thomas Partey on deadline day last summer.
But Partey has struggled badly this season since his move from Atletico Madrid, largely through injury, but is also failing to adapt to English football and find any consistent form.
Arteta added: “It is very difficult to make a real assessment because he has missed six months. That is a long time. He is still adapting to our way of playing which is different to what he did at Atletico Madrid.
“He had some big sparks and we can all see what he can bring to the team. Now it is about finding that consistency level that we need from him and building a team that can play around him because he has that capacity.
“The biggest difficulty he has had is that he has not been fit. Then every time he was fit he missed the next game and was out. For a long time physically he has not had time to prepare himself to play at the highest level.
“Obviously that has an impact because the level in the Premier League and demands of how fit you have to be it is key he is in a position for him to be able to perform at a level that he can do. Up to this point he has not had that possibility.”