ARSENAL face a huge battle to break back into the top four this season, Lee Dixon believes.
And Unai Emery will need at least a couple of transfer windows to properly make the Gunners his team.
The summer saw Arsenal’s new manager bring in five-first team players.
However, goalkeeper Bernd Leno has not featured yet, Stephan Lichsteiner is acting as back-up to Hector Bellerin and Lucas Torreira is being bedded in slowly.
Teenager Matteo Guendouzi has been a surprise revelation in midfielder and Sokratis Papastapopoulos has started every game at centre-half so far.
But Arsenal are still certainly a working progress with defensive concerns far greater than any in attack.
Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are off the mark this season in the Premier League with Arsenal having won their last two against West Ham and Cardiff.
Emery, though, began with back-to-back defeats at the hands of direct rivals Manchester City and Chelsea.
Dixon knows for Arsenal to qualify for the Champions League this term, some of the big teams will have to endure problems of their own.
“I’m kind of going ‘This is going to be really hard’”
But Chelsea and Liverpool have 100 per cent records, City are as strong as last season, Tottenham are still a threat and Manchester United are trying to similarly bounce back from a slow start.
Asked if there was anyone Arsenal could usurp in the race for the top four, Dixon exclusively told Starsport: “Well, I look at the top four and the way the teams have started and I’m kind of going ‘This is going to be really hard’.
“Obviously Arsenal’s start, although we’ve picked up a couple of wins, we gave a huge amount of chances away against West Ham, and likewise there were opportunities in the other games.
“I’m not confident, it’s going to take a while and I look at the top four now and I’m going ‘Where are we going to get in?’
“We’ve got to improve a lot and other teams have got to slip up.
“But it goes back to time again, I’m still hopeful. I’ve got a few people who are still at the club that I know and what’s going on on the training pitch is very encouraging.
“That’s the thing I’m hanging onto to say ‘No this team will get better’. It’s whether the players and the recruitment from now until the end of the season, through another window and with another window in the summer, he’s going to need a couple of windows in order to put his stamp on the team.
“It’s looking very difficult at the moment with the top four, so I think there’s got to be a lot of improvement, not only with different personal over the next couple of years but a different change in mentality that gets them a little bit more consistent without the ball.”
Dixon was speaking after having made a surprise appearance at Harpenden Town FC to award the long-standing club groundsman, Roman Motyczak, with Budweiser’s £10,000 Club Futures grant.
His son, Joshua Dixon, once played for the junior team, the Harpenden Colts.
Having joined forces with Budweiser, Dixon said: “The guys behind the grounds are so dedicated to their local clubs, and this dedication often goes unnoticed by everyone watching matches, and that’s why I jumped at the chance of giving something back to someone who makes a huge difference to people’s lives and careers – including my son’s.
“It’s typically the football players who get all the attention, but the real stars of the show are the groundsmen – without them, players wouldn’t be able to train, play games or score a goal.”