An absolute thrashing of Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final on Saturday showed the world just how far the historic London club have come in the past two seasons. Complaints of constant fourth-place finishes and a lack of silverware are a thing of the past as Arsene Wenger’s high-flying Gunners look set to mount a very serious challenge to bring the Premier League title back to the Arsenal faithful for the first time since the year of the Invincibles in 2004. What type of player does Stan Kroenke need to splash money on in the summer to bolster an already deep squad to give Arsenal that final little push to win the crown?
When you look at the players that Arsene Wenger has at his disposal, it’s hard to see any weaknesses. The forward line contains the proven international strikers of Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, and now Theo Walcott (altogether the trio combined for 34 goals this campaign). The midfield unit would strike fear into nearly any opponent in England as the big-money signings of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have fully adapted to the Premier League style of play, while the homegrown players of Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Jack Wilshere make Wenger’s challenge of narrowing down a starting lineup nearly impossible. For all of the criticism that the Gunners received over the summer for not bringing back Cesc Fabregas, it’s hard to see who he would replace in the lineup, and for all of those demanding a center midfielder to be signed this summer, I pose the same question.
The biggest name currently being linked to the Gunners is Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin. The Frenchman was arguably one of the best defensive midfielders in the league this year, and his ball-winning ability in the heart of the pitch would make him an invaluable asset to any side he suits up for. Schneiderlin was also linked with a big money move to the Emirates last season, but the mass migration of star players like Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Ricky Lambert earlier in the transfer window meant that losing the midfielder could have been catastrophic for the Europa League-bound club. With the rise of Coquelin in the same position this season, it does not make sense for the club to splash such a large transfer fee on the Southampton player, and Wenger’s tendency to push away from inflated prices makes this move seem unlikely.
For me, the biggest area of improvement needs to come in the center of the defense. Granted, this season the center back pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker paid dividends for the London club as they allowed the second-fewest goals in the league, fans must be concerned about the age of the duo. With the influx of pace into the English game with players like Eden Hazard and Angel Di Maria lining up in attack, another strong, proven central defender could prove to be the missing piece in the elusive title chase. Even with the signing of 24-year-old Gabriel Paulista in the January transfer window, a proven winner like Dortmund’s Mats Hummels would make Arsenal’s defense near impenetrable. The likelihood of that happening, however, appears to be slim. Wenger has already been quoted denying that Arsenal will make any big money signings this summer and it would take a hefty fee to pry the Dortmund defender away from Signal Iduna Park.
Even if Arsenal don’t make any headline grabbing moves this summer, the squad that Wenger has at his disposal already would challenge for trophies when healthy. But health has always been an issue for this club. Injuries to players like Walcott, Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain limited the attacking and midfield options for the squad, and quite possibly costs the Gunners key points in their push for second in the table. If the majority of the team is able to stay healthy and properly manage the exhaustion that comes with playing in four competitions at once, they will surely be a force to be reckoned with, and if there’s any manager in the league that has the experience to pull it off it’s Arsene Wenger.