Arsenal have a platform for success but Wenger must be bold

Martyn Thomas 06:01 31/05/2015
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  • Victorious: Arsene Wenger.

    Wembley was a very different place to be an Arsenal fan on Saturday than it was 12 months ago. The relief that flowed from the Gunners faithful as Aaron Ramsey spared their blushes against Hull in 2014, was replaced with hope as Arsene Wenger’s side triumphed with a swagger against Aston Villa.

    Showpiece games are rarely won as comfortably as the 134th FA Cup final, in which Wenger’s side toyed with Villa, and could realistically have won by more than the four goals they managed.

    Of course, teams rarely play as badly as Tim Sherwood’s did, but the style with which the Gunners set about their task hints at potentially great things to come.

    Wenger loves talking about his side in terms of progress rather than trophies, and there can be little doubt that his latest team are moving in the right direction.

    Last season’s FA Cup triumph was arguably more important, as it ended the club’s nine-year trophy drought. But if Ramsey’s goal lifted a burden from the Gunners, the four that arrived against Villa suggested that another period of sustained success could just be around the corner.

    Arsenal bristled with intent from the first whistle and it was clear they had arrived at Wembley intent on fighting fire with fire. Moreover, the sight of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Ramsey hounding the Villa defence should put to bed the notion that the Gunners lack resolve in key areas.

    That does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that the FA Cup winners are the finished article. Wenger faces a summer every bit as tough as Sherwood’s if he wants to turn this side into league and European champions.

    Primarily, he needs to supplement his world-class forward line with a defensive rigidity that makes them hard to beat when the likes of Sanchez and Ozil aren’t firing.

    It was impossible to judge Arsenal defensively at Wembley, because they had so little to do. Wojciech Szczesny did what was asked of him, while his defence did not allow themselves to be bullied by Christian Benteke. Unfortunately for the Gunners, though, they will not play Villa every week, and Wenger cannot afford to stand still as he plots to build on this.

    Arsenal need a top-quality goalkeeper to challenge Szczesny and David Ospina, while Mertesacker’s ageing legs should make another centre-back a priority. And then there is defensive midfield.

    Francis Coquelin has been an unqualified success since being recalled from a loan spell at Charlton, but if he were to get injured then Wenger is back to square one. Therefore, another deep-lying midfielder is a must, and not one to compete or cover for Coquelin but a player who will improve the team.

    Chelsea have proven what can happen when you buy established players that know what it takes to win in the Premier League, and Arsenal cannot afford to scrimp.

    Of course, Wenger should be allowed to bask in his glory as he recovers from the celebrations his players laid on for Saturday night. After all, he has guided the team with supreme dignity in the face of extreme provocation at times, never letting his side drop out of the top four despite seeing his purse strings tightened.

    Money is not much of an issue any more though with the Emirates Stadium more than paying for itself, and if Arsenal’s revival is to include a league, or Champions League, title Wenger must be bold.