After a spectacular capitulation that saw Arsenal blow a five-point lead with just three games left to play, the Gunners surrendered the much-coveted fourth-spot to their most fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Mikel Arteta’s men ran out 5-1 victors over Everton on the final day of the season, but it proved to be academic as Spurs had thumped already relegated Norwich 5-0 at Carrow Road to ensure Champions League football would be returning to North London – but not the red half.
Losses to Spurs and Newcastle away from home would prove to be the turning point for a young, inexperienced Arsenal side who can take heart from their efforts this term despite ending up two points short of their goal. Arteta admitted he was “in pain” after the win over the Toffees.
“I cannot assess the season today, I’m sorry, I’m still in a lot of pain after what happened on Monday, [loss at Newcastle]. I cannot give a fair assessment on what we’ve done,” Arteta explained. “What I can guarantee is that we’ve tried to squeeze the lemon as much as we can for every single drop and we reached the point we reached.
“I’m very grateful for everybody supporting our club, the way they’re giving us confidence, respect and motivation to drive forward because I think they believe in what we’re doing. But when you have it there – I’m a winner and I hate losing and we lost something we could win. That’s why I’m in pain.”
Arteta’s pain could only increase when he begins to ponder the ramifications missing out on the Champions League could have in terms of his transfer targets. The Gunners were in the mix to sign some high-profile, in-demand players that could now look to spread their wings elsewhere.
The most obvious figure would be Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus . Despite lifting the Premier League four times since arriving at the Etihad, the Brazilian is reportedly tired of playing second fiddle as he approaches the final year of his contract.
Given he could walk out of the door for free next summer, City are keen on the idea of cashing in on Jesus in the coming window – putting Arsenal and Arteta, someone who has already worked closely with the forward, on high alert.
However well their working relationship may have gone while Arteta was an assistant coach at City, it could prove difficult trying to tempt Jesus into an Arsenal switch while they are in the Europa League.
It is a similar story for attacking duo Lautaro Martinez and Darwin Nunez .
Plying their trades for Inter Milan and Benfica respectively, both have been touted with moves to not only Arsenal but some of the biggest clubs on the continent. Manchester United have been linked with both, while Liverpool are also reportedly keeping tabs on Nunez.
In what would be a painful blow for the Gunners, Tottenham have also long held interest in Martinez and the South American striker could now view Spurs as an attractive option given the lure of Champions League football – something Antonio Conte’s men can of course now offer.
Paulo Dybala has confirmed he will be leaving Juventus this summer after contract talks between the player and the Turin-based titans broke down. Arsenal’s struggles in an attacking sense are well documented and have been rumoured to harbour an admiration of the Argentine.
For a player that has won multiple Serie A titles and featured regularly in the Champions League, a switch to Arsenal to play in European football’s second-rate competition would undeniably be a step down and something Dybala is in truth likely to overlook.
The fifth target Arsenal could fail to acquire this summer is Leicester City’s midfield talisman Youri Tielemans . In a similar situation to Jesus in terms of his contractual situation, the Belgian has shown little sign of wanting to extend his stay at the King Power.
Arteta is thought to value the player highly and would be willing to bid around £30m for Tielemans’ services before he is available on a free this time next year. Comments made by the 25-year-old earlier this year now make for grim reading from an Arsenal perspective.
“Of course, I want to play in the Champions League, just like any footballer,” Tielemans explained. “Am I ready for a European top club? I’m ready to get the best out of my career. We’ll see what happens next summer, or the summer after that.”
The Belgian international looks set to be another player the Gunners miss out on due to their late capitulation at the end of the campaign.