Arsene Wenger has his eyes on a top-three finish in the Premier League as he looks to avoid the lottery of a Champions League play-off.
The Gunners travel to struggling Sunderland on Sunday and sit third heading into the weekend after beating West Brom 2-0 on Thursday night.
While their own title bid collapsed amid a poor run of results after the turn of the year, a 20th consecutive season of Champions League qualification is now looking likely for a club whose business model has relied upon it for some time.
But Wenger wants to finish third, with Leicester and Tottenham unlikely to be caught as they battle for the crown, and be entered straight into the group stages rather than be drawn in a play-off at the start of next season.
“Top four is not Champions League. Top three, yes. That’s why it is important,” he said.
“We want to play against the top teams and we want to be in the Champions League.
“What has changed over the years is that the impact of the finances in the Champions League is not as big any more. For a period in the past the money was vital for us.
“But the sporting impact, the planning of the next season, of course it changes completely. Especially when you have a big summer tournament like the Euros which is now like a World Cup because it starts on June 10 and finishes on the 10th of July.
“When you have to play Champions League qualifiers the European Championship is still going on. You can play teams in the qualifiers who are in the middle of their championship because they have started already in June.
“But for us we don’t know where we finish. We are not guaranteed top four and we have to fight for that. Man United is behind us and they will fight for it as well. We have difficult games and so do they.”
A tricky trip to Sunderland, who are scrapping for their top-flight status and have renewed optimism after Sam Allardyce masterminded an impressive 3-0 win away to fellow strugglers Norwich, will not be an easy outing for the Gunners.