Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under "incredible pressure" at the Emirates, despite Sunday's fourth round FA Cup victory against Aston Villa, according to Alan Hansen.
Arsenal's 3-2 win against Villa ensured the Gunners remain on course to end their seven-year trophy drought, yet Hansen believes the club will continue to stagnate should they fail to qualify for the Champions League this season.
Arsenal are currently five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the league and Hansen intimates that the club will struggle to overtake their London rivals in the second half of the season.
The Match of the Day pundit believes that Arsenal supporters' recent criticism of Wenger is justified and that the Frenchman must acknowledge that previous success will only mean so much if the club fail to reach Europe's elite competition this season.
"Arsène Wenger remains under incredible pressure. He will take comfort from an excellent comeback from two goals down, but the next eight to 10 weeks are critical to his future," Hansen told the Daily Telegraph.
"Wenger is one of those few managers at the top of the game to have earned unconditional support from his club. He is entitled to expect the same levels of trust to remain, but this is 2012 and football has changed.
"Supporters will give their manager leeway, especially one who has achieved so much, but such backing is not timeless. If they cannot see their expectations being met in the future, they can be quick to forget the glories of the past. It is all about the here and the now."
Arsenal will play AC Milan in the last-16 of the Champions League, with the first leg set to take place in Italy on 15 February. And Hansen has cautioned that, with the club struggling to achieve qualification for next year's tournament, the pressure on Wenger is only likely to increase in the next two months.
"Wenger has already suffered criticism from his supporters, which would have seemed inconceivable a few years ago," Hansen added. "That will continue if - as I believe will happen - they fail to qualify for next season's Champions League. I certainly do not think they are capable of staying in the European elite by winning the competition this year.
"The implications of failure to qualify are much more significant than progress in the FA Cup, albeit ending the prolonged trophy drought is also important.
Hansen suggests Arsenal will struggle to improve on their squad in the summer if they do not qualify, and therefore players like Robin van Persie could be tempted to move on.
"If Arsenal do not finish in the top four for the first time since Wenger became manager, it will have serious consequences for the strength of the squad. Four or five years could pass before they return to the elite," the former Liverpool legend said.
"Attracting players will become more difficult and stars such as Robin van Persie will inevitably consider their future. Everyone has noted how the striker still has not signed a new deal. It is fair to assume that he is waiting to see where the side finish this season."