It’s a good time to be an Arsenal fan. Yes, the long wait for a league title continues but with an FA Cup final looming, the prospect of silverware for a second year running is a luxury the north London club hasn’t been accustomed to for over a decade.
Champions League participation is secured for a record eighteenth consecutive season and they look favourites to finish third in the league, thereby avoiding those pesky European play-offs as well. Moreover, the team has flourished at times and produced the kind of swashbuckling football that sets them apart.
Yes, it’s a good time to be an Arsenal fan – but it could get so much better if only Arsene Wenger was more inclined to loosening his purse strings in the summer.
“We are not in need of absolute change. We have a strong squad. We have some strong young players behind.” – Arsene Wenger
Sometimes, the man really is his own worst enemy. The pessimistic Arsenal fan would be forgiven for viewing the Frenchman’s statement as the other shoe dropping. Wenger isn’t wrong though, he has a strong squad, one that doesn’t require major surgery but now is not the time to take your foot off the pedal.
Like the end of several seasons in recent times, Arsenal are finishing strongly and look primed for success in the following campaign. However, while the sides around them land major targets in the summer and boost their squads significantly, Wenger’s eye for a bargain often loses sight of the bigger picture.
Jamie Carragher “Arsene Wenger won’t overspend on new signings, the only people who are overspending at Arsenal are the fans”
— Latest FootballQuots (@nfootballquots) May 12, 2015
They wind up selling a couple of their finest players and buying individuals with potential, not proven pedigree. In the last two summer transfer windows however, Wenger issued a statement of intent by largely keeping the club’s most prized assets while adding world beaters like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to their ranks.
That was an encouraging step forward but now they need to keep making big investments lest they drift away again. While the signings of the two former La Liga stars strengthened the squad and added real pedigree to the group, they didn’t address other areas of palpable weakness.
Every summer Arsenal are heavily linked with a plethora of defensive midfielders as the media are clearly sensitive to the team’s shortcomings in that area. Yet, at the end of every transfer window, if the Gunners have recruited a midfielder, it’s invariably of the attacking variety.
There’s no dearth of creative talent in the final third for Arsenal but Wenger can’t seem to help himself. Perhaps this summer will see him finally break that trend. Francis Coquelin has been a revelation since his return from a loan spell but if you’re bidding to win a title, the inexperienced French midfielder shouldn’t be solely relied upon.
— ESPN.co.uk (@ESPNUK) May 20, 2015
A strong midfield enforcer with a real presence in the middle of the park would go a long way to making Arsenal not only a great side to watch when on song but also a difficult one to beat even on a bad day.
Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin was heavily linked to the Gunners last summer and his performances this season have certainly warranted a more robust approach from them to sign him this time around. Another alternative is Geoffrey Kondogbia, the Monaco midfielder who despite being a couple of years younger than Coquelin has far more experience in the first team and is a full France international.
Meanwhile, the need for a world class striker cannot be brushed aside on account of Olivier Giroud’s useful goal tally this season. He’s a hard worker and perfectly competent goal scorer but to be champions, that’s one area of the pitch which demands a bit of stardust.
Despite enjoying a fine season with 18 goals in all competitions, a side challenging for honours on all fronts need to boast of a striker capable of reaching the 30-goal mark. Giroud isn’t even the team’s leading goal scorer at present with Sanchez outdoing him from the flank with a tally of 24 goals.
It’s not easy to land a top striker of course and Arsenal can expect a huge dent in their kitty should they take the plunge but it’s a necessary investment for title challengers. They don’t have to spend upwards of £50-60 million on an Edinson Cavani but Edin Dzeko for example would be a solid purchase in the region of Dhs 143 million (£25m) if they can pull it off.
— Smithy. (@SmitMehtaAFC) May 18, 2015
Per Mertesacker has been a useful acquisition since his arrival and is a proper defender but the reality is that against the best sides, he’s been done for pace far too often. Laurent Koscielny has done a fine job of mopping up behind his skipper for the last couple of seasons but despite the arrival of Gabriel in January, if Arsenal can land a renowned centre-back with decent mobility, it would be a real boost to their defensive line; Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez, although only 23, could be a fantastic asset.
Wenger is right to praise his current squad of players and have faith in them but it’s not wrong to suggest that his side’s triumphs can be a tad misleading, at least as far as their title credentials go. They’ve often been labelled ‘flat-track bullies’ and having picked up 48 out of a possible 54 points against teams in the bottom half of the table, you can see why.
Against opposition in the top four however, their record stands at 1 win, 3 draws and 2 defeats so far. If you’re going to be crowned champions, you need to pick up more points from your encounters with the teams around you and Arsenal can only do that if they make significant investments especially since the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea certainly will.
At the end of the day, it comes down to ambition really. That’s precisely what Wenger has long been accused of lacking and this summer is the ideal time to show that he does have the hunger to push for a league title by spending on signings that can take the team to the next level.
Once again, Arsenal are on the cusp of something great and it’s up to them to kick on next season and fulfill the promise they’re currently showing lest their top four stagnation is extended.
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