The Gunners can secure third place in the Premier League with victory over Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday before Arsene Wenger turns his attention to new arrivals

Arsene Wenger claims that Arsenal are not in “transfer mode” but that will change instantly if his side clinch third place in the Premier League with a victory over Sunderland tonight.

The manager’s to-do list is rather simple for the rest of the season. First, finish third and seal a guaranteed place in the Champions League group stages next season. Then, go on and retain the FA Cup against Aston Villa on 30 May.

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After that, Wenger has all summer to sign the two or three players that Arsenal need to launch a genuine title challenge next season. Victory in the race for third was hardly the target for the Gunners when the season started last August, but it has become vital to the club’s planning that they avoid a tricky Champions League qualification tie in August.

•Arsenal's Theo Walcott (l) dribbles Mesut Ozil (m) during a training session ahead of their match against Sunderland tonight in the English Premier League match

•Arsenal’s Theo Walcott (l) dribbles Mesut Ozil (m) during a training session ahead of their match against Sunderland tonight in the English Premier League match

Direct entry into next season’s group stage would ensure the Gunners’ pocket at least £40 million and allow them to plan appropriately for the summer ahead. Third place would be an improvement on finishing fourth in the last two years but it is a sign of the rising expectations in north London that it will not be accompanied by the wild celebrations we saw when the Gunners finished fourth at Newcastle in 2013.

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That was embarrassing for a club of Arsenal’s stature, but Wenger’s invisible fourth placed trophy is now taken for granted. The target now is to challenge for the league having failed to finish any higher than third since ending the season second in 2005.

It would take some implosion to miss out on third place now, with Arsenal’s superior goal difference over Manchester United meaning that, in reality, Wenger’s men only need one point from their final two matches against Sunderland and West Brom.

They will hope to do it at the first attempt when they take on Dick Advocaat’s struggling Sunderland side at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.