Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Arsenal have got a real chance of securing a return to the Champions League under Mikel Arteta but in-form Everton will fall short of a top-four berth, Emile Heskey exclusively tells HITC.

The days of a formulaic ‘big four’, when it felt like Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal would forever reserve their seats at the top European table, are a thing of the past.

In fact, even in the so-called ‘big six’ era, there are a few plucky underdogs capable of smashing through the glass ceiling.

Leicester City will be playing in continental competition for only the second time in their history in 2020/21 while, with four wins out of four, Everton are the Premier League’s early pacesetters heading into Saturday’s intriguing Merseyside derby.

Everton vs Liverpool: How Jurgen Klopp’s men can silence noisy neighbours

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Heskey, however, believes an Arsenal side who endured their worst top-flight campaign in over two decades last season are perfectly placed to end a four-year Champions League exile with Arteta laying the foundations for an exciting new era.

“Along with the manager and his philosophy, I think Arsenal have got a good chance (of returning to the Champions League). I think he’s implementing certain things and they are slowly starting to get to where they want to be,” says former Liverpool and England striker Heskey.

“It’s great to see such a young coach blossoming at such a huge club like that.”

Back in April, a cash-strapped Gunners side were fearing not only the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but also that a lack of Champions League football would see them miss out on their top targets.

Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

It’s fair to say, with the ink still drying on ‘Auba’s new deal and Thomas Partey, Willian and Gabriel getting used to their new surroundings, it is Manchester United fans who are now glancing nervously over their shoulder after that 6-1 humiliation at Tottenham’s hands.

“If you’re going on what they look like now, I think Man United look all over the place,” Heskey adds.

“It doesn’t look like a team that will be challenging for top four – but if you look how they finished last season, they can always pull that out of the bag.”

And what about Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton; a team transformed by the arrivals of James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure, not to mention the rapid rise of Dominic Calvert-Lewin?

“You never know if they are going to sneak in there,” Heskey muses. “I don’t think they can because I don’t think they’ve got enough players with that mentality to push until the last minute.”

Everton, at least, have a schedule free of European competition. The Toffees are free to focus solely on domestic matters – unlike Arsenal, United, Chelsea and Leicester.

Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

Arsenal’s record transfer deals

  1. Nicolas Pepe

    £72 million

  2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

    £56 million

  3. Alexandre Lacazette

    £52 million

  4. Thomas Partey

    45 million

  5. Mesut Ozil

    £42 million

In other news, Kevin Campbell thinks Arsenal 20-year-old could replace Nicolas Pepe