As Arsenal continue their impressive end to this season, there is the real possiblity that next year could bring success back to the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal are something of a conundrum. Whenever you think you have them sussed – as a team on the decline for example – they beat Bayern Munich 2-0 away; the Bayern Munich who have only lost one other game all season.
When you think Wenger has lost his touch, he signs Nacho Monreal and Santi Cazorla.
And when you start talking about the impact of them not finishing in the top four, they surge once more, and you start thinking it is almost inevitable that a sixteenth straight Champions League will be reached.
This Arsenal, the post-“invincibles” Arsenal, is one of contradictions. For everything great that happens, there is a Bradford-moment, and conversely for every loss like the one to Blackburn in the FA Cup, there is a performance akin to that in Germany.
So what makes next season any different? In truth it is many things. Things that in the past have gone against Arsenal are suddenly working for them. And Gunners fans fearing the worst should think quite the opposite…for these simple reasons:
You are keeping your best players
It has become something of a tradition for Arsenal to sell their best players in the summer. In recent times Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Alex Song have all moved on, leaving Wenger to repair before he can improve.
For the first time in a long time, Arsenal are approaching the close season with an apparently happy squad. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has stamped on exit rumours by vowing to repay the faith Wenger has shown in him. And Arsenal’s other stars have, for the most part, either signed new contracts or only recently arrived.
Instead of dealing with the departed, Wenger can assess what he has and add to it. Finally he has some stability, and it will be interesting to see what he does with it.
Reports today suggest Wenger will spend big on a trio of Bundesliga stars: Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze and Lars Bender. It is speculation that may never be anything more than that. But there will be big players available this summer. It is up to Wenger to persuade them their future is at the Emirates.
Jack Wilshere gets a rest
And how he needs it, as yet another injury has curtailed what was proving to be an outstanding season.
With a summer to ease the strains on a body that is suffering in part due to Wilshere’s style of play and in part due to previous ailments, there is every chance the 21-year-old will begin next season in top form. All Wenger needs to do is sign someone to ease the pressure on him, a player who can step in and prevent Wilshere from playing every game.
There is no doubt he is a talisman, but his body is telling him something. Wenger would do well to listen, too.
The Bayern Effect
Okay so Bayern Munich were already 3-0 up and assumed they had it won. And yes, we all know it is hard psychologically to perform when you don’t really have to. But what Arsenal showed in the Allianz Arena is the ability to take on the very best and beat them.
It is an ability they have shown before, most notably against Barcelona at the Emirates back in 2011. But they must now show it consistently; which means the players brought in this summer must be top quality, in the right positions, to supplement and improve rather than make up the numbers.
Even if Arsenal do not reach next season’s Champions League, that mind-set is just as crucial domestically. They have the ability to beat the very best. They just need to start believing that.
What do you think next year holds for Arsenal? And who should they sign to ensure the disappointments of recent times are a thing of the past?