Arsenal were offered “false hope” by a 22-match unbeaten run, says Ian Wright, with things having now become “a little worrying in respect of top four”.
Finishing inside the Champions League spots was the ultimate target put to Unai Emery upon his appointment as Arsene Wenger’s successor in the summer of 2018.
With the Gunners having spent two years outside of the European elite, a desire to avoid an unwelcome hat-trick has been driving ambition at Emirates Stadium.
Emery made a solid start to that quest, with back-to-back defeats to open the season followed a lengthy run in which no setbacks were suffered across multiple competitions.
Arsenal have, however, regressed to their inconsistent ways of late and, with little money being spent across two transfer windows, they are now playing catch up once more.
Wright believes such a situation was always on the cards, with the faults masked early in the campaign now threatening to undermine the Gunners’ efforts.
The Arsenal legend told Radio 5 Live: “Going back to the unbeaten run, I think that gave people false hope in respect to finishing fourth.
“It was a great run but during that run, there were times in it where you thought, ‘Ooh, that was a bit tricky for us, could have done better here, could have done better there.’
“But the fact is that that kind of elevated everybody’s expectations a bit and I still feel top four is still out of our reach if I’m going to be totally honest.
“The Europa League is something that Arsenal should be really focusing on, for me.
“To be honest it’s the only thing you can focus on because if you look at the way it has gone in the Premier League, and it looks like they’ve fallen away a bit, Arsenal.
“Chelsea look like they’re maybe going to emerge a little bit now they’ve got the striker they need, Man United are really on form.
“You have to say that it’s looking a little bit worrying in respect of top four.
“But I think that Europa League is what Arsenal should be focusing on.
“The manager’s got a bit of pedigree in it and I think we can get some guys back [from injury] and have a blast for that.”
Arsenal sit sixth in the Premier League table at present.
They have slipped behind London rivals Chelsea and resurgent Manchester United, but remain only three points adrift of the top four.
A safe passage has also been secured to the last 32 of the Europa League, with BATE presenting the next continental obstacle for a side that reached the semi-finals of that competition under Wenger last season.