Now, after last night’s win at St. Mary’s, they must surely be glancing up it.
Victory for Arsenal over Southampton lifted them up to eighth in the Premier League and they are now somehow just five points off West Ham in fourth.
The idea of Champions League qualification still seems a way off - and certainly Arteta is keen to keep expectations in check - but at least Arsenal are talking about that and not being sucked into a relegation battle.
That was the case when Arsenal met Southampton in December, when a 1-1 draw meant that Arteta’s side had picked up just one win in their last nine Premier League games.
Last night, they beat Southampton to make it five wins from their last six in the League and only Manchester City have won more points and conceded fewer goals than Arsenal since Boxing Day.
“I don’t want to look at the table,” Arteta said. “I want to look at ourselves and how we can get better, the reasons why we are performing better and winning more football matches and then get that consistency that we’ve been lacking.
“We just want to try to improve as a team. Tomorrow is another day so let’s review the game, train, improve in the many areas we need to get better and then see where we get by doing that.
“Football games are always judged by the results and that affects confidence. Sometimes we were having good games and not deserving to lose at all, but we were losing matches.
“The moment we started to win, our confidence went up and we started to grow, to understand each other better.
“We’ve got some players back and the spirit started to lift a little bit. Things were much better.”
You could certainly see the confidence flowing through Arsenal last night and earlier on this season they could have easily lost a game like this.
When Stuart Armstrong put Southampton ahead after just three minutes you feared the worst, particularly as Alexandre Lacazette had just spurned a great chance and Saints had dumped Arsenal out of the FA Cup on Saturday.
There was also the fact that, prior to last night, Arsenal had not won a Premier League game this season after going behind. That is as clear a sign as any of what their confidence was like, but it is a different story now.
Instead they fought back here, first equalising through Nicolas Pepe and then taking the lead before the break courtesy of Bukayo Saka.
The teenager has spearheaded this revival under Arteta, scoring four goals in his last eight games, and he set up Lacazette for Arsenal’s third 18 minutes from full-time.
It capped off another impressive performance from Saka, who is already becoming a leader despite his young age.
“He’s really humble, really respectful but at the same time he’s got that character within him and on the pitch he can demand the ball,” said Arteta.
“He can make actions and decisions that is not very usual at his age. That’s something that is great because we need that leadership and he’s gaining that with his performances and attitude around the team.”
Saka is leading the charge, but others are following suit. Lacazette led the line superbly last night, while in defence Rob Holding was a rock on his 100th appearance for Arsenal.
The much-maligned Pepe shone too, while Cedric Soares showed that there is no need to ring the alarm bell if Kieran Tierney is not fit to play at left-back.
They all helped Arsenal claim another win and, while Arteta will not entertain talk of Champions League qualification right now, victory over Manchester United on Saturday will only get fans dreaming.