Arsenal's £238m reserves put spotlight back on Mikel Arteta's ambitions

The target for Mikel Arteta's Arsenal this season is to qualify for the Champions League – but should they be aiming higher?

Legendary manager Arsene Wenger was once hammered by the press and supporters for insisting a top-four finish was 'like winning a trophy' and perhaps those standards should be bestowed on Arteta's ambitious side after another summer of heavy spending.

Arsenal have spent well over £100million on five signings this window, meaning they've invested nearly £500m into the squad since ex-midfielder Edu – the man responsible for transfers – was appointed as their technical director in July 2019. That's a lot of cash.

With Arsenal's resources, history and fanbase, they should be a Champions League team. Yet the Gunners haven't graced Europe's premier competition since March 2017 and finished fifth in the Premier League last term, just behind rivals Tottenham.

Arsenal's strength in depth is evident by their possible bench for Saturday's game against Leicester at the Emirates. In theory, Arsenal's substitutes could be Matt Turner, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Benjamin White, Rob Holding, Nicolas Pepe, Martin Odegaard, Fabio Vieira, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Eddie Nketiah. That's £238m worth of talent.

Arsenal's bench could be as such because Arteta has confirmed Takehiro Tomiyasu, Fabio Vieira and Emile Smith Rowe have all returned to full training. He's also revealed Kieran Tierney is in “perfect condition” after starting their last outing – the 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace – from the bench.

Arsenal's £238m reserves put spotlight back on Mikel Arteta's ambitions

Mikel Arteta knows it's time for Arsenal to return to the Champions League ( Image: Getty Images)

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“They’ve been reintegrated into training this week, all of them,” said Arteta on Friday. “They are in different phases but some of them will be in the squad tomorrow.

“He [Tierney] played 15 or 20 minutes last weekend and he did really well. He’s been out for a long time after the knee injury but he looks in perfect condition now and ready to go.”

Therefore, there's a chance Tomiyasu, Smith Rowe and Tierney could come in for White, Odegaard and Zinchenko on Saturday. Arteta may decide against that move, but that's irrelevant. What does matter is the wealth of options the Spaniard has at his disposal.

After years without Champions League football, there are no more excuses for Arteta. Even Edu has admitted Arsenal must improve on last season's fifth-placed finish. “I give to the club a five-year plan,” admitted the technical director last month.

“I said to Mikel and to the board: 'Guys, 2022-23 will be the season we’re going to be much better'. We have to be patient. It would be impossible to take everyone out and put everyone in, we need a process to do that.”

If Arsenal come up short again, owners the Kroenke family – who've come under a lot of criticism from fans for a lack of investment in recent years – will begin to ask questions of their manager. Last season, Arsenal were project. Now, they should be a competitive force. It's time for Arteta to deliver – and the minimum is Champions League football.

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