Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is allowing his players to express themselves on the pitch, says Gunners fan Mikael Arteta. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Long-time die-hard Arsenal fan Ian Poulter expects the Gunners to definitely finish with a spot for next season’s European Champions League by the end of the 2020-2021 English Premier League campaign.

Poulter, who is preparing for the 2020 Masters being held at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, from November 12-15, has always supported the North London club.

Last weekend, the 44-year-old watched the Gunners get maximum away points against Manchester United for the first time in 14 years.

“We dominated that game. I liked the way we played and the opportunities we managed to create against a quality team like Manchester United,” Poulter said in response to a query from Gulf News.

“We have a young and enterprising coach in the form of [Mikel] Arteta who is always wanting to add the right players to the squad. It’s like me looking back at that squad of 2002 when Arsenal were at the top of their game as the invincibles. As an Arsenal fan, Arteta is allowing all his players to express themselves on the pitch, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we can finish among the top-four in the Premier League this season. That would be a realistic position to be in this season,” he added.

Poulter has always made it a point to express his love for the North London club. On several occasions in the past, the golfer appeared with the Arsenal team’s crest on his shoes, and he even controversially wore the team’s shirt during an event, gaining widespread ire for flying in the face of golfing tradition.

Arsenal’s three points against Manchester United last Sunday saw the Gunners with 12 points after seven matches while ending a three-match losing streak that included narrow losses against Manchester City, Leicester City and current league leaders and defending champions, Liverpool.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s playmaker Paul Pogba turned culprit as the Frenchman needlessly lunged in on Hector Bellerin midway through the second half, drawing the penalty which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted to settle full points.

“It was one of those matches that we deserved to win, simply because of the way we played as a team. The midfield was compact with new signing [Thomas] Partey giving a good account of himself,” Poulter pointed out.

“At the same time, I would urge them not to be overconfident as it is way too early in the season. But that said, a return to the European Champions League as there are so many other aspects to be considered there including extra money and a bigger budget to spend,” he added.

The top four teams from the English Premier League automatically earn a place in next season’s European Champions League, while the next two advance to the Uefa Europa Cup. Between 1998 and 2017, Arsenal qualified in 19 successive Uefa Champions League seasons - an English football record - and is only surpassed in Europe by Real Madrid. However, since the past few seasons, the Gunners have managed to play in the second-string and less lucrative Europa Cup competition.