Matt Lawton says Arsenal made some second-rate signings on transfer deadline day - but feels they had no alternative.
In a late flurry of activity at the Emirates Stadium, Arsene Wenger signed the likes of Mikel Arteta from Everton and Yossi Benayoun from Chelsea as replacements for departed stars Cesc Fabregas - who joined Barcelona - and Samir Nasri, who moved to Manchester City.
Lawton told the Sunday Supplement that, as a result, there is now less quality in Arsenal's squad than there was at the end of last season.
However, he feels Wenger had few options because the Gunners can no longer compete with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City for the very best players.
"Arteta and Benayoun are poor substitutes for Fabregas and Nasri," said the Daily Mail writer.
"Having said that I do think Arteta is a good example of David Moyes' managerial abilities. He was a brilliant signing for Everton and is a good player.
"However, I don't know what the alternative was for Wenger. The football landscape has changed so much since Wenger was last winning trophies and since Wenger was able to attract the players that he's renowned for signing to Arsenal.
"We now have Chelsea and Manchester City with Manchester United still competing with those two clubs on salaries and on transfer fees.
"I don't actually know what Wenger can do to avoid this."
Lawton feels Arsenal fans must now accept that their club are competing in a "different league" to the top teams in England.
And he says he has sympathy for Wenger because the deals for Fabregas and Nasri were completed in the final weeks of the transfer window, giving him little time to bring in replacements.
"It's difficult to spend the money until you absolutely know the players are going," Lawton added.
"I know it was pretty obvious Fabregas was going to go, but the fact of the matter is Barcelona did not come through with the money until pretty late in the transfer window. Nasri did not go to Man City until pretty late in the transfer window.
"They were victims, to a degree. If you're the manager that needs to get cracking and get somebody else in because eventually these guys are going to go then it's an absolute nightmare.
"I just think Arsenal have to accept, their fans have to accept and even we have to accept that they are no longer on the same level as Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.
"Wenger is operating in a different league."