It was a season where Arsenal missed out on a great opportunity. With Manchester United out of the title challenge, and Chelsea deeply missing a reliable striker, the Gunners had the chance to mount a serious title challenge. And while they led the Premier League for a total of 128 days, Wenger’s men eventually missed out by 7 points, settling for 4th place.
The introduction of Mesut Özil boosted the club greatly at the start of the season, but injuries to key players such as Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere hindered the Gunners.
But the French manager knows that a strong transfer window this summer could push the club over the final hurdle, and finally reclaim the Premier League title. They ended their trophy drought with victory in the FA Cup, and now it’s time to re-lift the league trophy.
Wenger was hoping Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi would help them do so, but Roma have turned down an enquiry from the Gunners, because they believe that the 23-year-old will be a key player in the Italian clubs’ future. So with Florenzi out of the picture, here are SIX alternatives that could come in and help Arsenal push for more success.
The 20-year-old is already making a name for himself in Ligue 1 as one of the finest young midfielders in Europe. The Italian is flourishing under the guidance of international teammate Thiago Motta, who is helping mould Verratti into the next Pirlo according to some fans. Verratti started Italy’s World Cup fixture against England, where the midfielder demonstrated how he would suit the Gunners’ style of football. The PSG man is an accurate passer who likes to keep the ball moving, but isn’t afraid to turn and dribble past a defender before slotting in an accurate through ball.
Of course the 20-year-old isn’t the complete package and has plenty to learn. But under Wenger’s sculpting, Verratti could become a useful central player for Arsenal, with the ability to create and the discipline to sit and make tackles, whilst Wilshere and Ramsey go hunting for goals. PSG will be interested in keeping the youngster because he shows great promise. But with Pastore, Matuidi, Motta, Cabaye and Lucas all looking for a starting place, and the finances to buy any top player they want, the Ligue 1 Champions could be prepared to see Verratti leave for the right price.
Young and impressionable, Kovacic could be a perfect project for Wenger to work on. The Frenchman has started to bring out the best of Aaron Ramsey, with the Welshman having a fine season last year, scoring 10 goals and creating a further 8 in the league. Fellow young midfielder Jack Wilshere is continuing to impress despite fighting numerous injuries, whilst the Frenchman is also getting fine displays out of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. 20-year-old Kovacic could be the latest young midfielder to excel under Wenger, by playing in a similar style. The Croatian can sit in the middle of the pitch and push forward if asked, and loves to dribble at defenders as well as playing a quick passing game.
The Inter Milan midfielder didn’t score any goals in Serie A last season, but he did create 4 goals for his fellow teammates. With Flamini ageing and Källström’s loan deal now expired, Kovacic could be an ideal player to bring in to hold Arsenal’s midfield, and control the game. Give him a few years to learn under Mikel Arteta, who is now 32, and in a few years Kovacic could be a star at the Emirates, bossing the midfield and creating plenty of opportunities for the Gunners.
Many thought that the Ivorian had lost his touch, but Kalou is happily proving people wrong in Ligue 1. The Lille man scored 16 goals in the league last season, whilst making a further 6 for his teammates. The 28-year-old now has 30 goals in just two seasons with the French club, who got their place back in the Champions League next season because of his finishing. The former Chelsea man has been linked with a move to Arsenal in the last two transfer windows, and now could be the best time to make that deal happen.
Kalou has shown it wasn’t just a one off season at the end of the 2012/13 campaign. The Ivorian has got even better, and more versatile. 11 of his 16 goals came whilst playing as a central striker, with the rest scored whilst he played on the right hand side, the position we associate him with after his Chelsea days. Kalou would offer width for Wenger, as well as being a back up should Olivier Giroud be having an off day. The 28-year-old seems ready for a return to the Premier League, and to boost Arsenal in their pursuit of success.
A teammate of Florenzi, it’s been Manchester United who have been linked with a move for Strootman in the past 6 months. The Dutchman scored 5 goals, but is known more for the goals he helps create, not being an attacking midfielder. The direct creator of 6 league goals for his teammates last season, Strootman could be the perfect holding player for Wenger next season. With fantastic vision and a precise left boot, the 24-year-old unlocks defences with his key passes, whilst protects his own back-line with a great sense of calm.
Strootman is becoming a fantastic holding midfielder, who can add a handful of goals when needed. Dubbed by some as the ‘Dutch Roy Keane’, Strootman is currently recovering from a knee injury, but is expected to be fit and healthy in August. He may miss the first two games to get to match fitness, but when he does, the Dutch midfielder will be controlling the game once more. He could provide a backbone to Arsenal’s midfield for years to come, and connect both defence and attack from the middle of the park.
More of a goal scoring threat than Strootman, La Liga’s Griezmann could offer the versatility Florenzi does. The Frenchman has been in Real Sociedad’s first team squad since 2009, where he has slowly made more and more of an impact as he’s aged. The 23-year-old has made an appearance in 4 of France’s World Cup matches so far, starting in the draw with Ecuador and victory over Honduras. The left winger, who can as a forward if needed, (though not his preferred position), was a goal machine last season.
Griezmann scored 16 times in La Liga for Real Sociedad, as he ran at defenders before cutting inside to find the back of the net. The Frenchman would bring more natural width to the Gunners, stretching opposition defences and creating more central space for the likes of Özil, Cazorla, and Ramsey, all of whom drift in when played out wide. The longer a team waits to make a move on Griezmann, the higher is price tag is going to go. He’s a player on the rise, catching the eye of more and more people as he plays, and now may be the best time to bring him to London.
Part of Atletico Bilbao’s impressive youth set up, Munian has been playing for the club’s first team since 2009, despite only being 21-years-old right now. He was the youngest player ever to wear Athletic’s shirt in an official game, at 16 years, 7 months and 11 days old. The Spaniard is another who likes to dribble at defenders and play small one-twos to get around them. Munian would comfortably fit into Wenger’s system of pass and move, whilst his pace would make him pretty difficult for opposition defenders to attack.
An attacking midfielder, Munian can play centrally but plays the majority of the time on the left hand side, where he scored 7 league goals and created 3 more for his Bilbao teammates. The Spaniard saved some of those goals for the big teams too, scoring against Sevilla, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid last year. Young and threatening, the Premier League is calling for Munian to showcase his talents, and push for a place in the national squad. Will Wenger be the man to give him his chance in England?