As the Arsenal winger suggests his club should always be challenging for the title, can they do exactly that next season?
“We should be competing for the Premier League every year, that’s our first priority.”
Those are the words of Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, and there is no doubt that what he said is true. Arsenal should be competing for the title. And yet they haven’t managed to for quite some time.
It was 2005 when Arsene Wenger’s side last challenged for the league trophy, and 2004 when they last won it. For the last eight seasons, what may have been their first priority ultimately proved an impossible task.
And yet Walcott’s words are perfectly timed, because as the three sides that finished above them this year all prepare for managerial transition, Arsenal are a picture of stability.
It has been said countless times that the Gunners’ bittersweet second-leg victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League transformed their season. But it could also prove to be the catalyst for this team’s destiny.
“In every competition we can go far,” Walcott told The Sun, “as long as we believe we can.”
“We need to realise how good we really are because, at times, we don’t think that.”
Speaking like the captain he may one day become, the 24-year-old appears to have issued a battle-cry, months before the new campaign kicks off. And you sense that both the club and its players know next season is the one.
I have previously written a piece declaring that next year could be the Gunners best in almost a decade. And I still maintain that fact. For all the reasons cited in that article and for more besides.
The fact the players are now saying similar things themselves proves that they understand the importance of the next 12 months.
The importance of continuity cannot be overstated, and for all those who have doubted Wenger in recent times (and I am one), he could ultimately have the last laugh.
Will Arsenal win the Premier League next season? It seems unlikely with the spending power of at least two of the sides above them and the talent available to all three. And yet when you listen to Walcott, when you see the club finally tie down some of its best young players on long-term deals, and when you consider this transfer window will see additions rather than replacements, then perhaps it isn’t such an impossible dream.
“I know how good this team is,” Walcott said, “and I feel that when I play, the team is better.”
What would come across as arrogance from some appears to simply be confidence from the former Southampton player.
If Walcott’s words aren’t enough to instil belief in his teammates come August, they need only look back to last night’s Champions League final, and further back, to the evening they beat the eventual winners.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald