Arsenal are the great ‘nearly team’ of modern times. They threaten to do something every season before a bad run of results condemns them to another season where they battle to get into the Champions League spots. For many clubs, getting into Europe’s top competition on a regular basis would be seen as a remarkable achievement. However, at Arsenal, it is a different story. Fans have almost taken Champions League qualification for granted. There is the expectancy at the start of every season that the club should be challenging for the title rather than trying to get into the top four. Arsenal have the foundations to seriously mount a title challenge in the near future but they need to eradicate a number of issues if they are to achieve this.
The first issue is strength in depth. At too many points this season, particularly in a defensive sense, Arsenal have had to chop and change in order to compensate for injuries and a lack of cover. Whether that’s Nacho Monreal playing at centre-back or Mathieu Debuchy filling in for an absent Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal need to have quality not just in the starting eleven but in reserve as well. The signing of Gabriel in January is a step in the right direction as Arsenal now have more defensive cover. However, in the summer, Wenger needs to add more quality to his defensive ranks so that Arsenal can deal with injury problems next season.
The Gunners also need to add an element of steel to their game. The current squad has shown that it can defend well; the result against Manchester City being a prime example of this. Although Arsenal have shown that they can defend as a unit, it is a lack of consistency that ultimately exposes Wenger’s side. It could be the fact that Wenger likes to stick with the tactics that he has built a successful managerial career from, playing tidy, attacking football. However, sometimes you have to win ugly and Arsenal need to add this to their game on a more consistent basis if they want to improve. They didn’t show much resilience against Tottenham as Spurs could have scored more than two goals in the North London derby.
In order to really produce consistently solid performances, especially away from home, Arsenal need a big name and an imposing personality in the middle of the park to allow the team to keep a structured, defensive shape. Francis Coquelin has done extremely well in the defensive midfield position since he has returned to the club from a loan spell with Charlton Athletic. Despite this, Arsenal still need another holding midfielder. Not only does it mean that the Gunners will bolster the squad’s strength, it is also important to have a senior figure in midfield that can perform the simple tasks well. Coquelin does do this effectively for Arsenal at the moment but the team could benefit from a real experienced head in midfield.
Arsenal do have quality throughout the entire team but there is always room for improvement. Up front, they are lacking a real quality striker who can make darting runs and gather 20+ goals a season. They have an abundance of creativity in midfield but when it comes to supplying a front man, Olivier Giroud does a job but he isn’t going to be the Premier League’s top scorer any time soon. If a world-class striker does come to the Emirates, he will have all the service he could wish for from creative influences all over Arsenal’s midfield. It is this issue that is a common problem for Arsenal all over the pitch. They have good players but the balance of the team is not perfect, making them fragile and causing them to struggle against the big teams in the division.
It is going to be an interesting summer for Arsenal as a successful transfer window could really kick-start a title challenge. However, these words are all too familiar for Gunners fans who are still waiting for Arsenal to take that step to the next level.