Unai Emery believes Arsenal have closed the gap on their competitors but will need to strengthen if they hope to return to the Champions League.
An Eden Hazard-inspired Chelsea beat Arsenal 4-1 in the Europa League final in Baku, leaving the Emirates Stadium men facing a third straight season away from Europe’s top table.
The Gunners boss admitted failing to qualify for next term’s Champions League could limit the club’s transfer options, but backed his side to take a step forward next season.
“Maybe some players need to leave for us to take a new way,” said Emery.
“But it’s not the moment to speak about that. I am very proud of our work.
“I think the players did all we can to achieve our target, and we are closer to the other teams, but at the moment it’s not enough.
“We can continue with the same team but also some players will come and help us get better.”
Asked if failing to qualify for the Champions League would dent Arsenal’s recruitment drive, Emery said: “Maybe, but I think we are a big team, and I think Arsenal is a big name in the football world and a lot of players want to play here.
“We are in one process and we need in this process to be strong in our idea, strong in our way, and that’s the reason why we started this season to get more competitive like a team, get closer to the other teams. And we’ve done that.
“At the moment it’s not enough for our target, but the next week, the next year, we’ll continue with that in mind.
“And also we have a lot of players with the possibility to improve and grow up with us.
“I am positive for our future, creating our way and getting better in our way.”
He added: “Next year we need the same players, the same idea, maybe also to add some new players to give us some situations we can improve.
“But it’s the same way as this year, just to take one more step.
“A lot of players who have played their first year with us can get better and give more in performance for us.”
Hazard’s two goals and an assist floored the Gunners, who had looked comfortable in a goalless first half but crumbled after the interval.
“The first half we had some chances, but we didn’t concede many chances for them,” said Emery.
“The second half the idea was the same, carry on our gameplan, take our moment to take the chances to score. But they scored first.
“And the first goal was very important in this match, because after that you need to play calmly, but we made some mistakes and they have very good players to use these mistakes and take chances to score.
“We were, I think, in the match until they scored the second goal, and after that it was not possible.
“I want to say to all the supporters, we are in this process.
“The first target was not achieved, but I think we are closer, first in the Premier League, and in this competition.
“Next year is a big challenge to take one more step on the way.”