They came second last season, yet it’s been seen as a failure. And that’s because it was.
The league was there for the taking, all Arsenal needed to do was keep their nerve. And they didn’t.
That means the familiar calls to spend real money will be heard once more. Arsenal fans will be screaming it at the tops of their voices, and Arsene Wenger will probably have to listen.
He’s already made one signing, the exciting Granit Xhaka, who fills a hole that has been gaping in the Arsenal midfield ever since Patrick Viera left the club.
That’s given Arsenal fans hope that their club might actually decide to fill the other two gaping holes in their team, too: centre back and striker. And if they do that, here’s how they could line up next season, including pace, power, silk and solidity – it’s a frightening mix of old-school Wenger! Boy, does that take you back to the days of Patrick Vieira, Marc Overmars, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp!
Surely this team wouldn’t fall short like every Wenger team since 2003?
The top class goalkeeper that Arsenal have been crying out for since Jens Lehmann. He proved his worth in his first season at the club, winning the Premier League Golden Glove award for most clean sheets. That has something to do with Arsenal’s defence, too, which improved last season, but the defenders are benefiting from having a goalkeeper they can trust behind them.
Like last season, Cech will not be the reason Arsenal win the Premier League title, but, like last season, Cech could well be a big reason why they’re still within touching distance until the end.
One of the revelations of the season, Hector Bellerin found himself usurping Mathieu Debuchy’s right back spot and becoming one of the best performing full backs in the league and making the Premier League’s team of the season.
That means Arsenal are now facing a fight to keep him at the club, with Barcelona reportedly sniffing around as they look to replace Dani Alves. If he’s good enough to replace Alves, he’s good enough to play in any team in the world.
The stalwart centre back. At 30 years of age, Laurent Koscielny has matured nicely and is now the the heartbeat of the Arsenal defence, and indeed for a France side who are one of the favourites to win Euro 2016 on home soil.
Whilst international success would seal his place in the pantheon of French football – a huge achievement – Arsenal fans will hope he has someone alongside him next season who takes some of the responsibility off the man who is set to become club captain and keeps the defence solid.
That man to play alongside Koscielny next season may not already be at the club. Last season centre back cover of Calum Chambers and Gabriel failed to keep Arsenal solid in defence, and although they were obviously second choice, the Gunners will probably need to replace Per Mertesacker this summer.
That man could be Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli, the Senegalese defender who is also linked with Chelsea. A versatile defender who has played in the midfield and at full back, he is the kind of classy defender who would fit into Arsenal’s team whilst also adding a bit of defensive solidity alongside Koscielny.
Nacho Monreal is fast becoming a fans-favourite at the Emirates. He has become the undisputed first-choice left back and there’s no reason to change that. His performances are consistent, he’s good defensively and he’s trusted with the ball when Arsenal attack, offering width when Alexis Sanchez cuts inside.
Arsenal’s defence is improving, and with Bellerin and Monreal either side of two good quality centre backs and Petr Cech, Arsenal will have a solid base to build upon.
The base becomes even more solid when you add Granit Xhaka to the midfield. The Swiss international was the Gladbach captain last season, taking on the responsibility and turning himself from a wild, red card-prone tackler, into a more measured defensive midfielder who leads his team by doing more than just shouting or lunging.
Xhaka is the hard-man Arsenal have been calling out for, but he’s also a leader on the pitch by taking control of the ball. He’ll pick it up from the back and send it to the creative players in front of him, whilst staying back to protect his defence.
It’s somewhat of a sentimental pick, but also a very practical one. I expect that in bigger games, Mohamed Elneny or Francois Coquelin will partner Granit Xhaka in midfield, or even play in a different system, but against most teams, when Arsenal can expect to see plenty of the ball and be forced to break teams down, Santi Cazorla will play a huge role.
His comfort on the ball and ability to find a killer pass are well known, but he also takes the creative pressure off those players in front of him, and playing in a slightly deeper role makes him the perfect out-ball to recycle possession against a stubborn defence.
Most teams in the world would be happy to play this man on their left wing. Though it certainly was a lucky break for Arsenal that the only team that didn’t want him was the very one he was playing
One of the very best players in the league, he is lethal for club and country, but the fact that he’s just won yet another Copa America with Chile might cast a doubt on his start to the season.
Last year, after being treated to an extended break by Arsene Wenger, Sanchez took a few weeks to hit the ground running. With the league so crowded by teams who having money and are willing to spend, not to mention the frightening prospect of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte at the helm of three of the biggest clubs in the country, Arsenal can not afford an off-colour Sanchez for very long.
This may be a long shot, but if Arsenal are to buy another attacking midfielder, someone of this ilk is a must. Instead of playing Aaron Ramsey on the right hand side of midfield, a top quality winger to mirror Sanchez should be the type of player they look for. Though, admittedly, centre back and centre forward are more pressing issues.
It could just be, however, that Turan mirrors Sanchez in more than just his position and his talent. Indeed, Turan is clearly a fabulous player who is kept out of the team by Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Could it be Arsenal yet again that gives a home to a world class player who simply can’t break into the best attack the world has ever seen?
Arsenal’s talisman. The assist master and just a generally fantastic player. Arsenal aren’t lacking in the attacking playmaker category, with the likes of Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey who can come in and cover, but losing Mesut Ozil would be a blow to any team in the world.
If Arsenal are to win the league this season, not only will their big players have to have good seasons, but Mesut Ozil’s key passes will have to be played to the kind of player who can redirect them into the net! Ozil is one piece of the jigsaw, but a striker is needed, too.
Arsenal need a striker, that much is evident. Olivier Giroud is a good player. I’m always shocked by the criticism of him because he’s a target man in the true sense of the word – it doesn’t mean you need to play a long ball to him, but he can compete in the air, he has a great first touch, strength to hold the ball up and the ability to allow the likes of Alexis Sanchez to run past the striker and into the box.
But that should be a separate option for Wenger. It shouldn’t be his only one. And although Arsenal have been linked with big beasts of the striker’s position, like Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, Arsene Wenger likes to buy younger players who have a resale value, rather than paying over the odds for a ready-made striker.
In Lacazette, however, Arsenal will get someone close to a ready-made option. The Lyon striker is a goalscorer, that much is proven, but he is also strong and quick, the kind of player who usually thrives in the Premier League. He could be the man to fire Arsenal to a first Premier League title in over a decade.