(Reuters) - Arsenal must play in Europe next season, manager Mikel Arteta said on Friday, as they head into the Premier League's final weekend hoping to secure a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League, UEFA's new third-tier competition.
Ninth-placed Arsenal are out of contention for Champions League and Europa League places and cannot finish higher than seventh on the final day of the season when they host Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.
The Europa Conference League has been looked down on by several critics and Arteta admitted he would be concerned if they qualified and the schedule made things difficult in the Premier League.
"We have experienced in the last few years how tough being in the Europa League is with the amount of games that we play and the short turnaround that you have in the Premier League," Arteta told reporters.
"I think there is a lot of history there with teams that have been involved in the Europa League and the negative consequences that has in the Premier League positions.
"But we try to give it the best possible go. We came a little bit short but this club has to be in Europe."
Arteta confirmed Joe Willock would return to Arsenal's first team setup next season after a successful loan spell with Newcastle United in the second half of the campaign.
The 21-year-old midfielder has scored in six consecutive league appearances, earning praise from Newcastle manager Steve Bruce who said they would test Arsenal's resolve to hold onto the player over the summer.
"I'm really happy that things have gone so well for him because of the potential that Joe has. I think it was great for him to go away and have a different experience," Arteta said.
"He has grabbed that opportunity in a really remarkable and positive way. He will be back with us, we will have those conversations with him and plan the next years for him."
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)