Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put his men briefly within touching distance the top four with an early penalty at the Emirates Stadium, only for Glenn Murray to equalise, again from the spot, just after the hour mark.
The result leaves Arsenal three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with just one game to go, while their north London rivals also enjoy an almost irreversible advantage on goal difference in the event of a tie on points.
Chelsea booked a spot outright in next year's competition on Sunday with victory over Watford, while Liverpool and City have long been assured of their places, sitting respectively 23 and 21 points clear of their closest challengers.
But Emery preferred to look higher up the table to pinpoint where his team needs to be challenging.
"At the moment, for us and for me, we've spoken with the players," Emery added. "The Premier League is the best competition to give us our regularity, our consistency," the former Sevilla coach signalled after the game.
"If we are 27 points behind the leaders, that's the difference. But we are going to work and build up our future. This season is also about learning and continuing to create our way. Our way is in the future to make the difference in the table less to these teams."
Barring a miracle, Arsenal's most feasible chance of making the Champions League now lies through the Europa League.
On Thursday the Gunners travel to Valencia's Mestalla home for the second leg of the semi-final holding a healthy 3-1 lead, but Emery insists that his team's priority must be establishing themselves once more among England's top four.
"We know it's going to be very difficult [to qualify for the Champions League]. There are six teams going for the top four and we fight with very big teams. Our way is to make the difference [smaller] to them. Then we have another competition, the Europa League, and we are doing our way [in that]," he added.
"On Thursday we have the second leg and have this one title to play for. It's a way to get into the Champions League. Above all, for us the Premier League is the first competition and we couldn't be in the top four.
"We are close to that, with Chelsea and Tottenham, but there's a big difference to Manchester City and Liverpool. Our work in the future is to reduce this difference."