Mikel Arteta is confident Arsenal will not suffer a hangover next season if they miss out on Champions League qualification this weekend.
The Gunners host Everton on Sunday knowing even an emphatic victory may not be enough to clinch fourth spot in the Premier League if rivals Tottenham claim the point they require away to already-relegated Norwich.
Arsenal appeared in the driving seat following key wins over Chelsea and Manchester United last month but back-to-back defeats to Spurs and Newcastle mean they look set to settle for fifth in the table.
It would still represent progress following consecutive eighth-place finishes, but a warning for the north London outfit would be what happened after Unai Emery’s side missed out on the top four by a point in 2019. Within six months of the next season, the Spaniard had lost his job but the current manager at the Emirates does not expect similar to happen.
“I don’t think it will,” Arteta said. “I think as well, that squad was very, very different to the squad we have now in many senses.
“It will be (a missed opportunity) for sure because we were there and mathematically it was possible and in our hands. That feeling could be there if it happens and it will take some time to take away that – but that’s part of football.
“You cannot take notice of what happened a week or two weeks ago whether it was positive or negative because it is not going to have an impact on anything.”
If Arsenal do get pipped to fourth position by Tottenham, as expected, next season could be even more competitive with Erik Ten Hag the new man at Manchester United, while Newcastle will have plenty of money to spend after they beat the drop.
The likes of Wolves, Leicester, Everton and Aston Villa will all be expected to improve but Arteta remains unfazed having dealt with the coronavirus-affected 2020-21 campaign.
He does acknowledge, however, that Manchester City and Liverpool – who go into the final day battling for the title – are levels ahead.
Arteta added: “I didn’t expect the season before last to be the way it was with Covid and I don’t expect a season more difficult than two seasons ago or this season, but I don’t know.
“It is a big gap (to City and Liverpool). The league doesn’t lie and you have to be very realistic in the way you want to recruit and the way you’re going to move forward because that’s the level these guys have set.
“We have lost many games, we have lost four games playing with 10 men, which those teams don’t do. So there is a lot to learn.”
Arsenal’s young side have earned plenty of plaudits this season with Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka proving impressive.
But a criticism of the Gunners has been the lack of leaders and world-class players in their set-up compared to City, Liverpool, Chelsea and even top-four rivals Tottenham.
“With the players we have, we have come to the point where, with one game to go we are still competing with those teams that have a very different profile of player to the one we have,” Arteta said.
“If we want to continue like that, they have to evolve to become those players that are playing in other clubs and making the differences they make because, at the end of the day, it’s how do you win football matches?
“Who wins football matches? Is it the collective, is it the individual, is it the physicality – or are there two players who have the ability to unlock the game every time?
“When you look at the top teams, there is no secret – if you have two, three, four, five or six of them, you’re going to win more football matches.
“It’s about creating those players if you can’t afford to buy them. Simple as that.”