I may be jumping the gun here by looking so far into the future as next season; but really, are there any Arsenal fans who fancy reminiscing about this past season? No? Good.
Laurent Koscielny’s winner at the Hawthorns on the weekend may be of even greater significance than it seemed at first. Sure the club are now certain of Champions League football, but that competition and the financial income of it gives the club a great hand with which to build a title-challenging squad for next year.
There’s got to be some degree of confidence that Robin van Persie will finally sign a contract extension, despite the way many will interpret his recent comments. Coupled with that, the club have an incredible position with which to take their transfer activity to the next level with the draw of European football.
It’s not that crazy to assume the club can take that huge jump away from the horror show of this season and morph into a competitor for Manchester City and Manchester United. The past few seasons have offered up varying levels of title challenges from the Gunners, even though they failed miserably at the final hurdle.
The change in back room staff should also be an indication that the club are looking to take a positive approach into next season and beyond. The club undoubtedly needed freshening up and the additions of Steve Bould certainly add to that.
But let’s not assume that third place in the league glosses over the huge shortcomings of this Arsenal squad, because it doesn’t. There’s a great deal that needs to be done to ensure the club have a squad fit for a title challenge, rather than just a first XI. The captain needs assurances that he won’t be doing it all himself, and will surely want to shake that “one man team” moniker.
It seems that Wojciech Szczesny has reminded Arsenal fans of the misery goalkeepers have put them through over the years by putting forward his own collection of unmemorable moments. The young ‘keeper is talented and has what it takes to be the club’s No.1 for many years, but the inexperience, overconfidence and arrogance gets the better of him at vital times. A much more confident back up to the youngster would add another level of maturity and ability to the goalkeeping position at the club. Honestly, there is barely a move that could offer a lower level of competition that has been at the club over the past number of seasons.
The club also need to distance themselves from the idea that they will never spend big. There’s not always a need for marquee signings or the introduction of superstars, but sometimes it is necessary to mark the transition into a new phase for the club. Dennis Bergkamp had that impact in the mid nineties when clubs were not as keen on foreign players, and a similar signing can really give the club a positive lift.
It’s incredibly hard to form a title-winning squad without a big name to lead the club on the pitch. And yes, van Persie does offer that, but again he needs and wants support. The short-term future of Jack Wilshere remains unclear—another issue which the club should maybe shed some light on—and there’s no telling how well he’ll adapt upon his return. A little more confidence from the fans in the playing squad certainly won’t go amiss, but the club need to give supporters a reason to raise their voices.
One of the most worrying aspects of Arsenal’s game is their defence. It’s a problem that’s been obvious since the move into the Emirates Stadium. But with the right coaching there’s a lot of potential for a stubborn defence. Not necessarily water-tight, but definitely better than 49 goals conceded in the league.
Arsenal’s performances on the pitch have always been bordering on the unpredictable, but the club’s summer activity has traditionally been even more difficult to map. Again, the Champions League is so important for the club going forward, but it is down to Arsene Wenger to ensure a repeat of last season isn’t on the cards.
If the club play the transfer market smartly and improve the coaching staff, there’s every reason they can better their position of third in the league next season.