A fine end of season run saw Arsenal claim a Champions League place, but they can do better next year and gatecrash the title race.
Here are five reasons why...
Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud
Cazorla has mostly had an excellent season, whilst Giroud has been solid enough in his first year in England, but both will be even better next year having settled at the club. Cazorla is unlikely to have the slight mid-season dip he experienced this season as he will used to not having a winter break, whilst Giroud will simply be more established in the side and has a record in his career that suggests his goal return will increase substantially in his second season.
Arsenal started and ended the season with their defence being praised from all parts, but the difference at the end was that their back four looked like it could maintain its form. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker are unbeaten as a pairing over their last 18 matches, and Nacho Monreal and Keiran Gibbs give depth at left back. Bacary Sagna might leave, but Carl Jenkinson has been impressive when he has played this season, and Arsenal seem to planning to strengthen in that area anyway.
All the indications seem to be that Arsenal are not going to hold back in the transfer market this summer, and although this has been the expectation for a little while, this year might, finally, be different. The increase in TV money, coupled with Arsenal’s stadium payments being completed, sets them up well to invest in the side, and Stevan Jovetic could be the first name through the door.
No major departures
Well, perhaps only one, Bacary Sagna could leave, but replacing a right back is considerably easier than finding a new Robin Van Persie or Cesc Fabregas. With most of their players tied up in long deals, Arsenal can go into the summer relatively unconcerned about team’s plucking their biggest stars away from them, and will have a settled squad to prepare for next year.
Changes at other clubs
The three teams that finished above Arsenal will all have new managers soon, and although Jose Mourinho might be returning to the Premier League, none of them will be able to match Arsene Wenger’s experience of top level management in England. Even if there is just a short period of transition at Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, Arsenal might be able to take advantage.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald