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Tottenham given depressing Champions League prediction as Mikel Arteta set “elite” target


Former Arsenal star Paul Merson doesn’t think much of Tottenham’s Champions League hopes next season after Spurs beat the Gunners to a top four place by “elite” manager Antonio Conte

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Paul Merson says Tottenham have no chance of winning the Champions League next season and might as well come third in their group!

But he also claims Mikel Arteta needs to prove he’s an elite manager like Antonio Conte after being outsmarted by the Italian in the race for the top four. And Merson, who won five major trophies with the Gunners, reckons Arteta must buy some veterans this summer to help the kids at the Emirates along.

Writing in his Daily Star column, the former Arsenal and England winger said: “Arteta needs to prove he can be an elite manager like Antonio Conte next season. “But he must make a success of Arsenal’s biggest transfer window in years first.

“Conte beat Arteta to a top four spot. But it won’t hurt them watching Tottenham in the Champions League. This game is all about winning stuff. And let’s face it Spurs have no chance of winning that competition. Zilcho. Get third in your group and try and win the Europa League! All it is, is a money spinner, the Champions League. Fair play to them though. Spurs did what they had to do. Played well. And got over the line. But they’ve got an elite manager. They’re very fortunate.

“How many clubs who aren’t winning the Premier League title, or at challenging for it, have an elite manager? It’s very rare. Arteta is not an elite manager. You only become an elite manager over time. And he will be given time at Arsenal. So he has a chance.”

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Magic Man Merson, who also played for Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and England, has worked with some big-name managers over the years. He played under the likes of George Graham, Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp and Glenn Hoddle – but reckons Arteta is on the right path to joining the elite.

Antonio Conte is an “elite” manager but Mikel Arteta isn’t yet, according to Merson
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Image:

Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Merson said: “Elite managers just have that little bit more know-how. “Conte got rid of players they had signed for a lot of money, and he brought in great players. Dejan Kulusevski. Wow. That’s why he’s an elite manager. And Arteta could be too one day – but he needs another good window right now to start with.

“The next few players Arsenal buy need to be experienced professionals in my opinion, ideally 28 or 29 years old. They need experience in the team. They have a lorryload of promising youngsters but they froze when it came to the crunch. They’ve got to get some experience in the team.”

Arsenal have been linked with the likes of Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans this summer. But Merson said: “Gabriel Jesus would be a good fit. He’s only 25 but he ticks the boxes because he scores goals, Arteta knows him, and he has experience of winning trophies with Manchester City.

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“It’s alright having young players but the problem is one minute they are up high and the next minute they are down low. They can’t play well every week. It’s impossible. That comes with age. So they need to be helped along. And Arsenal don’t have the quality, experienced leaders to do that.

“This is a hard league – and they get targeted as well. Teams tell players to pick Bukayo Saka up now because they know he’s a big danger man. It’s about getting through those rough 20 minutes in games at places like Newcastle where you have to get a result. You learn that as you get older.

“That’s the most important thing in this next window – bringing in experience. It’s their biggest window in a massively long time if I’m being honest. They got it so wrong in January. I don’t know anybody who thinks that was a success. The season has been disappointing because they’ve punched above their weight. They started with three straight defeats remember.

“But if they get it right this time I think they’re in for a good season, I really do. The kids will be a year older. They should have a stronger side if they buy well.”

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