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A very good Sunday evening to you, as we prepare for West Brom’s visit to the Emirates where they face Arsenal.

Mikel Arteta has warned that the gap between Arsenal and the biggest sides in England could become “almost impossible” to close if the club does not implement major changes.

The Arsenal manager believes his project is “still on time” but said the first-team squad needs to be refreshed if they are to stand any chance of returning to former glories.

In the aftermath of Arsenal’s devastating Europa League defeat by Villarreal, Arteta said the club’s decline has been a trend over years.

He has now warned that the distance to the rest of the leading clubs, who stand to gain a financial advantage over Arsenal by qualifying for European football next season, could become too big if they do not make the right decisions in the coming months.

“Time is catching up right now,” said Arteta. “It is a trend. It is years now that this has been happening. If the distance and the margins with the rest becomes too big, then it’s almost impossible to do it.

“I think we are still on time and we have put some very strong pillars and foundations in the last few months to do what we have to do. I think we are in the right place to do it, and we have to do it.”

The Spaniard, who is facing mounting pressure from supporters ahead of Sunday’s meeting with West Bromwich Albion, added that the club’s under-fire Kroenke owners will support the squad rebuild this summer.

“I think the squad needs changing,” said Arteta. “There were already a lot of changes in December, something that has not been done in years, but it tells us where we were. Things are going to have to change and the owners are going to back it up.”

Arsenal’s players faced heavy criticism following their defeat on Thursday, with a small group of fans attempting to block the roads outside the Emirates after the game.

Arteta has called on his squad to respond to the European setback by winning the final four games of the season, starting with their match against West Brom. Arsenal have not won a home game since mid-March, when they beat Tottenham Hotspur.

“We need to win the four games and see where that takes us in the table,” said Arteta. “We need to see a strong reaction again on Sunday.

“I saw how much they [the players] care. But how much they care in the dressing room is not what we have to see. It’s how much they care when we go on to that pitch and how we put it right.

“I know that they all care. The ones that are here, I’m telling you, they care and they care a lot and they’ve shown me that time and time again.

“Results on some occasions, or a lot of occasions, this season haven’t been what we wanted. But I will defend them because they deserve to be defended by me.

“The level that we have shown, some days it wasn’t enough. But the intention, the purpose and the professionalism to do it has always been there.”

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