Arsenal find themselves “eight windows behind the big boys”, says Troy Deeney, with the club still some way short of the elite despite making progress under Unai Emery.
The Gunners have taken steps in the right direction this season after opting to make a change in the dugout.
Arsene Wenger was famed for his frugal approach to recruitment, despite completing some big-money deals towards the end of his 22-year tenure.
Emery was then handed no war chest upon inheriting the reins, but has managed to force Arsenal back into contention for a top-four finish and a return to Champions League competition.
Watford captain Deeney admits there have been signs of encouragement at Emirates Stadium, but believes a rival outfit remain a long way off being challengers for the most prestigious prizes.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Everyone knows me and Arsenal don’t get on too well.
“But I think there has a steeliness that has been brought in and there are goals throughout the team.
“They have different styles of play now and can play with the two boys up front that are always going to score goals and give you something to build on.
“But football works in six-month periods between transfer windows and they are going to have to go again.
“Look at how many transfer windows they are behind the big boys. They are probably six, seven or eight behind the big boys. That is just being realistic.
“I know people are saying it is a massive improvement but that’s only on what they had last year.
“But they are still behind the likes of Man City and United, not just in spending but in the quality they have brought in.”
This is not the first time that Deeney has hit out at Arsenal, with the Watford striker having famously questioned the Gunners’ fighting spirit after helping the Hornets to a 2-1 win in October 2017.
He said back then when asked why a star-studded side falls short so often: "I have to watch what I say, but it's a bit of cojones.
"Whenever I play against Arsenal, I'll go up and think 'let me whack the first one and see who wants it’."
The Gunners were able to see off Watford in their most recent meeting, with Emery’s men claiming a 2-0 win in September, and they are set to be reunited at Vicarage Road on the final weekend of the 2018-19 campaign.