Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta issued a message to the club’s hierarchy despite the morale-boosting defeat of Premier League champions Liverpool on Wednesday night: ‘Back me in the transfer market or else we will not catch the league’s best teams.’
Despite having just 33 per cent possession at the Emirates and only three shots compared to Liverpool’s 24, the Gunners came out 2-1 winners on home soil.
Arteta’s side were forced to dig their heels in and grind out a hard-fought victory as they became just the third team this season to be victorious against Jurgen Klopp’s men.
The visitors had taken the lead through a well-worked Sadio Mane goal but a rare Virgil van Dijk mistake allowed Arsenal to draw level against the run of play through Alexandre Lacazette after half-an-hour.
Another error, this time from goalkeeper Alisson, then allowed Reiss Nelson to put Arsenal in front just 12 minutes later.
The Reds dominated the ball in the second half but struggled to carve out clear-cut opportunities, wasting what goalscoring chances they did create, meaning they can no longer beat Manchester City’s record 100-point tally from 2017-18.
A gritty Arsenal meanwhile returned to winning ways after a derby defeat to Tottenham, giving them fresh belief heading into their FA Cup semi-final showdown with City – the holders of the trophy – at Wembley this Saturday (7.45pm kick-off).
Yet Arteta was keen to remind Arsenal’s powerbrokers of the gulf in quality between the two teams, even though his charges came out with all three points against Liverpool for the first time since Klopp was made manager five years ago.
It has been confirmed the transfer window for Premier League clubs will open on July 27 and run until October 5, with deals between English top-flight clubs and teams from the English Football League possible until October 16.
And the Arsenal boss wants to be backed adequately in the upcoming window in order to make any serious long-term progress as they seek to catch up to their rivals.
“It’s massive. You only need to look at the difference between the two teams today,” Arteta said to Sky Sports.
“The gap is enormous. But the gap in many areas, we cannot improve it in two months.
“The gap between the accountability, the energy, the commitment and the fight of the two teams now is equal.
“Before it wasn’t like this and I’m very proud of that.
“The rest will take some time but at least with that we’ve got it now and my message to the players is that with that we can create something.
“I think the competition right now in the country is much harder than what it was before.
“Arsene [Wenger] did some incredible things and he brought a new philosophy, new ideas to the country and he was very successful. I’ve done nothing yet.
“I have everything to do and we need support, we need belief and we need to go in the [right] direction, it doesn’t matter what happens.”
Asked if he will have the finances that he needs to transform Arsenal’s squad, Arteta then admitted simply: “I don’t know.”
He added: “It’s a big concern because you just have to see how they build those squads and there’s no magic.
“You need to improve with quality, quality players to the squad and you need bigger squads to compete in this competition. That is the challenge.”
Arsenal’s victory comes ahead of an FA Cup final four clash with City which could go a long way to deciding whether or not the north Londoners are in Europe or not next term.
They have not spent a season outside of either the Champions League or the Europa League since 1995-96, when Europe’s second-rate competition was known as the UEFA Cup.
And with Arsenal needing their rivals to drop points in the final matches, which they then must capitalise on, in order to qualify for the Europa League via the league, winning two matches in the FA Cup may be an easier route into the competition.
Asked if the win over the champions was the perfect tonic to defeat to Spurs, Arteta said: “Absolutely, in terms of energy and happiness in the dressing room and to put a defeat away before the semi-final, it’s obviously a good medicine.
“To beat this team you know how many good things you have to have. You have to have moments in the game when you take your chances, that’s what we did.
“You have to defend in many moments the way we did tonight, need a bit of luck and today we had all of that. I liked the belief.
“I was worried after 1-0 how we were going to react because they are such a good team with the pressing, the way they play, they nullify you almost in many moments.
“We were able to pick one moment and believe again. Before I think they would’ve gone down, today they said, ‘We need to go for it, we know important this game is for us.’ Here is the reward.”
Victory keeps Arsenal in ninth, but they are now just three points adrift of sixth-placed Wolves with two games to go of the campaign.
Asked whether the league or the FA Cup presents a more realistic route into Europe, Arteta added: “I have no idea. I didn’t have any idea before the game and I’m in the same position right now!
“We’ll go for both of them with our maximum. There’s nothing to play for, it’s just a couple of games. We’ll keep going.”