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Declan Rice signs and Champions League challenge - what Mikel Arteta's Arsenal 'phase four' could look like

Declan Rice signs and Champions League challenge - what Mikel Arteta's Arsenal 'phase four' could look like

This is what the future could hold.

With Champions League football as good as guaranteed and Declan Rice tipped for a move to the Emirates, here's what Mikel Arteta's 'phase four' could look like.

Arsenal travelled to the Etihad in search of three points on Wednesday evening, as the Premier League title race reaches its pinnacle.

However, the occasion seemingly got the better of the Gunners, with Manchester City blowing them away away 4-1 on a night which will have huge ramifications on who lifts the trophy come May.

Goals from Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones and Erling Haaland sealed their 10th consecutive domestic victory, as Pep Guardiola eyes his third successive league title.

Arsenal still hold a two-point advantage over the reigning champions, although City have the chance to go four points clear should they win their next two games in hand.

Indeed, silverware looks increasingly unlikely for the Gunners this season. However, one can sense a new dawn is rising in north London, with Arteta's 'fourth phase' already underway.

What is Arteta's fourth phase?

Arteta previously discussed the five phases he had presented to Arsenal's ownership when he was awarded the hot seat.

In an interview with ESPN last month, the Spaniard revealed the club were currently in the third phase of their development, admitting they were ahead of schedule.

When quizzed on what the next two phases could entail, Arteta kept his cards close to his chest, stating he had a "vision" for the future.

“It’s something a little bit private,” he said (quotes via One Football). “It’s just my understanding and vision of what the club was, and what we have to capture and develop.

“I like to do it looking forward first and then you have to do it backwards. It is just my idea of the club and the decisions we have to take to move it forward."

But with a Champions League spot practically wrapped up, the wheels are in motion for Arteta's next step, and SPORTbible have been taking a look at what could be in store.

Arsenal's next step

Arteta is reportedly keen to invest in his squad this summer in preparation for a busy European schedule next season.

West Ham midfielder Rice has emerged as their priority transfer target, after the 24-year-old turned down several contract extensions at the Hammers.

While Arsenal have surfaced as favourites to sign the Englishman, who is allegedly eager to work with Arteta, having raved about the club to his West Ham teammates.

The addition of players like Rice should take the league leaders to the next level, in which they will compete against the very best on Europe's biggest stage.

Phase four should also involve tying down the likes of William Saliba and Bukayo Saka to new contracts, with the pair's current deals due to expire next year.

Saka is thought to have agreed personal terms over a new long-term deal, with the 21-year-old set to become one of the top-flight's highest earners.

In the meantime, negotiations over Saliba's contract are said to be going smoothly and the Frenchman will pen fresh terms "very soon".

Saliba has been sorely missed in the heart of defence following a back injury he sustained in March.

Rob Holding has been drawn in as emergency cover, but has struggled to replicate the 21-year-old's form.

Indeed, Arteta must address those positions lacking depth if the Gunners are to compete on all fronts next season, and rival Manchester City once more.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Arsenal, Mikel Arteta, Declan Rice, Champions League, Premier League, Football, William Saliba, Bukayo Saka