Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Sunderland, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger says it is crucial the Gunners to avoid a Champions League play-off at the start of next season.
With four games to play in the league, Arsenal will be looking for automatic qualification for the continental competition with a top-three Premier League finish, and they go into Sunday’s match at Sunderland one point behind third-placed Manchester City who hit four past Stoke City on Saturday with Iheancho scoring a brace.
Arsenal have reached the group stages through a qualifier on seven occasions, but the Premier League’s long serving manager is keen to avoid that scenario this summer.
“It’s difficult because you can play teams who are in the middle of a championship because they have started already in June. But for us, we don’t know where we will finish.
“We are not guaranteed the top four and we have to fight for that. Manchester United are behind us and they will fight for it as well. We have difficult games, they have difficult games as well.
“What has changed over the years is that the impact of the finances in the Champions League is not as big anymore. It was vital for us for a period.
“The supporter impact, the planning of next season changes completely, especially when you have a big tournament like the European Championship, which is now like a World Cup because it starts on June 10 and finishes on July 10. When you have to play qualifiers the European Championship is still going on.” Wenger told the Arsenal official website.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their last five Premier League trips to the Stadium of Light, winning the last four in a row and drawing one.