The 2013-14 season is over. For fans of Arsenal Football Club, 9 years with a lack of silverware have quickly been forgotten. With FA Cup celebrations still reverberating in some parts of London, many of those associated with the club have already turned their attention to the next go-around. Coupled with the FA Cup success, the new season will bring renewed pressure on Arsenal to bring home England’s most coveted prize in the Premier League trophy. So, without further ado, let us dive into what Arsenal need to do this summer.
First, we need a goal for the 2014 FA Cup Champions: 1st place. While I believe that 2nd place is the more achievable idea for Arsenal, their time at the top of the table this last season and the fact that the Gunners have made excuses for them not winning the league means that the players and managers believe that they should have been EPL champions. With Wenger seeming to be returning and with rumors that money will be poured into this club, anything outside of a top finish would be seen as a failure. First is certainly a goal, especially as none of the other top teams will take a backwards step approaching next season, but Arsenal need to improve upon barely achieving Champions League football every season.
The coach issue, unless Wenger chooses to leave, is no longer present for Arsenal. There is no other club where constant 4th place finishes will be so greatly rewarded, so it would be odd for Wenger to leave…especially considering how much Arsenal will be willing to pay the French manager.
Players that NEED to go – The mere fact that Sagna no longer appears to be on board with Arsenal’s way of doing business means he should be shipped out and used to bring in some transfer funds. Also, Podolski has been far too hot and cold for his current club and there are plenty of destinations that would pay a premium for the German attacker. It is not even fun anymore to talk about moving Bendtner, but the rest of the club seems to have come together relatively well. While some of the current squad are not the best player for their position, it does not necessarily mean that a club with Champions League and domestic squad needs should be tossing players to the side.
Positions that NEED to be filled – Like many of the clubs just outside the top two spots, another top class player brought in for every major section of the pitch would not be a waste. Arteta’s replacement needs to be found, especially as Ramsey seems to satisfy more requirements for Arsenal as an attacker and goal-provider. Plus, although Giroud does not warrant half of the negative publicity tossed his way, Arsenal do need a world-class striker to have lead the front lines. While Sanogo might be an impressive future player, this is probably where the biggest chunk of Arsene’s transfer spending will occur.
The KEY to next season – The attacking midfield’s health and form. 12 months ago, if you had told me that Aaron Ramsey was the key to Arsenal’s season, I would have laughed quite heartily in your face. However, his match-winning goal in the FA Cup coupled with Arsenal’s descent once Ramsey got injured can only mean that his health and form will be what Arsenal greatly depend on next season. In relation, if you had told me that Ozil would not have been anything less than amazing for Arsenal, I probably would have performed a similar action to my Ramsey-related laughter. Ozil will need to return to his best for the Gunners next season. Perhaps a good run-out with the German national team will help spur this on. The story is similar for most of Arsenal’s midfield attacking threats…and the Gunners will depend on these players for their success next season.
Surprise boost – Finally getting the “trophy monkey” off their back is no surprise, so we will have to look elsewhere for a “surprise” boost. For Arsenal, their boost will come from World Cup form. A huge contingent of Arsenal’s starting players will be performing at the World Cup this summer, and even those not present will benefit from a summer off (i.e. Theo Walcott). If Mertesacker, Koscielny, Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud, and Oxlade-Chamberlain can come back from any type of decent World Cup performance, then Arsenal could benefit greatly as their key players return.
Arsenal will definitely be one of the early favorites for top four contention and for a shot at the league title. It will be interesting to see who they field in Champions League qualifying matches in order to give their World Cup athletes a proper amount of rest. However, such a massive club cannot let their entire season rest on the legs of a Welsh midfielder. This summer will be their to truly stake their claim and let the world know how far they will go next season.
Arsenal goal finish: 1st
Players purchased for more than $7.5 million: 3.5
Players sold: 2
New coach? No.
Is there actually less pressure on Wenger after the FA Cup snag? No…more…