Unai Emery has practically thrown in the towel on Arsenal’s title challenge — 16 days BEFORE the season kicks off.
The Gunners boss says the gap to champions Manchester City and runners-up Liverpool is too big to close.
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Arsenal finished fifth last term, a whopping 28 points behind City and 27 off Liverpool.
And Emery says they need to focus on overhauling Tottenham and Chelsea, while also holding off Manchester United, to qualify for Champions League football.
He warned: “We need to be realistic because the distance between City and Liverpool to us is a lot of points.
“We need to reduce that gap and be more competitive.
“And to do that we need to improve defensively without losing any of our offensive qualities.
“I think we progressed last season but it was not enough to achieve our top target of getting back into the Champions League.
“We reduced the difference with Chelsea and Tottenham and in the end we were only two and one point behind them.
“I know that is not enough but I am positive we can take further steps forward to compete with the big clubs and fight for the top four in the Premier League.”
This will be Arsenal’s third consecutive season without Champions League football and Emery, a year in after replacing Arsene Wenger, will be judged harshly if he fails to secure top-four this time.
Yet the Spaniard knows his job has been made tougher by a A$80m transfer budget while his rival top-six managers have enjoyed a more stress-free summer.
Emery said: “City and Liverpool are very strong, Chelsea have kept all of their players and Tottenham is growing up and making big signings.
“Manchester United were behind us last year but they have a lot of potential as a team and have bought some expensive players.
“So we need to believe in our process and in our players.
“We have very good young players and now we want to sign two or three more to help us on our way.”
This article originally appeared in The Sun and has been republished with permission.