Arsenal face a desperate battle to qualify for the Champions League next season as they bid to raise the necessary funds to overhaul their squad.

The manifold holes in the Gunners’ squad have been laid bare in several disappointing defeats this season, and major surgery is still required. Various reports have suggested that new manager Unai Emery does not rate the club’s three most valuable assets – Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette – while the squad players have been found wanting.

Yet there was no money available for permanent transfers in January and the chairman admitted a failure to qualify for the Champions League has battered Arsenal’s spending power.

A third consecutive season without Champions League football could well see Arsenal fall further behind Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea. They have two avenues to achieve qualification for Europe’s premier competition in 2019/20, and Emery needs to motivate his troops for the run in.

unai emery brighton
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 26: Unai Emery, Manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal FC at American Express Community Stadium on December 26, 2018, in Brighton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The most obvious route is clinching a top-four spot in the Premier League. Arsenal are just three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, although a resurgent, rampant Man Utd are now also one point ahead. Tottenham are 10 points ahead but, with Harry Kane and Dele Alli injured, they too look like they could be sucked into the top four scrap.

The alternative is to win the Europa League, a feat Emery achieved three times on the bounce during his time at Sevilla. The Oddsmarket betting odds from market leading sportsbooks will give you a strong indication as to Arsenal’s chances. They are considered 4/1 underdogs to finish in the top four, with Spurs at 1/4, Chelsea at 1/2 and Man Utd at 11/8. They are 6/1 second favourites to win the Europa League, with Chelsea as 4/1 favourites.

Arsenal can take a great deal of encouragement from the 2-0 victory they pulled off against the Blues recently though. Chelsea have since brought in Gonzalo Higuain to address their goalscoring problems, and he will not be cup-tied for the Europa League, so they perhaps deserve their status as tournament favourites. But they look a bit of a mess still, with Jorginho struggling in the holding midfield role and N’Golo Kante blunted by being played out of position, and Arsenal could certainly topple them.

No other team in the Europa League looks overly formidable. Napoli, Inter, Sevilla and Valencia all look beatable, and Arsenal just need to improve their form in knockout competitions.

It is time for Aubameyang and co to start earning their extravagant wages. If they can raise their game for the remaining few months of the season, it could have a transformative effect on Arsenal’s fortunes over the next few years. Signings like Lucas Torreira and Sokratis Papastathopoulos look really encouraging, and it would be fascinating to see what Arsenal’s new look transfer team could pull off with the funds that Champions League football would generate.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19: Lucas Torreira of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC at Emirates Stadium on January 19, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 19: Lucas Torreira of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC at Emirates Stadium on January 19, 2019, in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

They badly need two new full-backs, a new centre-back and a tricky winger. Alex Iwobi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac have struggled for consistency all season, and upgrades are required if Arsenal are to kick on. A top centre-back to take over from Laurent Koscielny should be a priority, and then it is up to the club to decide whether they need to bring in replacements for the likes of Ozil, Aubameyang and Lacazette.

The departure of Sven Mislintat was a surprise, while Ivan Gazidis’ move to AC Milan has also caused further chaos, so the club needs to implement a clear transfer strategy in the summer. But that task would be much easier with Champions League football assured, so the onus is now on Emery and the players to fire Arsenal back into the big time.