5 things Arsenal must do to ensure they win the Premier League

HITC run down the essentials that, if completed, could see the Gunners crowned Premier League champions at the end of the season.

1: Maintain consistency

When Arsenal were down in February, last season, many thought they were out for the count but they regained their composure, fought on and showed plenty heart to begin a compelling end-of-term consistent streak that began with a 2-0 away victory over the eventual best team in Europe, Bayern Munich and culminated - ten Premier League matches later - with a 1-0 win over Newcastle United.

In that ten game stretch, the club picked up 26 points. They earned a fourth placed finish in the division, Champions League football this season and inflicted a Europa League fate onto Tottenham Hotspur.

Aside from an opening day blip against Aston Villa, the Gunners - once again - are firing on all cylinders with maximum points collected from every one of their subsequent league matches, including a 1-0 trumping over North London neighbours and the summer's big spenders; Spurs.

In campaigns past, Arsene Wenger's men have been blighted by erratic patches. Last season, it was only until December when they managed to piece together three consecutive league victories. The year before, they were destroyed 8-2 by Manchester United early on, a couple weeks later they suffered a 4-3 reverse to Blackburn Rovers before losing to Tottenham 2-1.

What has perhaps changed this year is that, for the first summer in a while, they have kept hold of their best players, have recruited one of the continent's top footballers and have therefore been allowed to grow as a unit.

If Wenger can navigate a continued winning-run through late September and October (Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City and Crystal Palace) then the team will be in extremely good point-tally health before they face their next grand test; Liverpool.

See also: Santi Cazorla hails young Gunner on par with Spain's best

2: Stay injury-free till January

Wenger's Arsenal are a side often plagued by injuries. The Premier League injury table is usually one topped by the red-and-white side from Ashburton Grove and seven players are, at present, occupying the physio's room.

Currently, Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski are both sidelined with hamstring injuries, Lukas Fabianski has a knock, Theo Walcott has suffered an abdominal strain, there is an issue with Santi Cazorla's foot and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby are both out with knee trouble.

Last term, Wenger lamented his decision to 'rush' Wilshere back to first-team duty in April, reflecting that he was not completely ready.

And, even in August this year, Wenger again took an unnecessary risk with the Englishman as a '90% fit Jack' was left on for the entire duration of a particularly hostile encounter with Fenerbahce, a Champions League qualifier the Gunners had already won due to a storming first leg showing.

Wenger may be a bit too gung-ho on relying on his game changers as, in 2009, he threw a hamstring-recovering Cesc Fabregas into the mix on the 57th minute of a goal-less game against Aston Villa. While the Spaniard's introduction changed the match, it came at a cost of a three week injury recurrence.

With plentiful options in midfield this season: Mikel Arteta, Cazorla, Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky, Wenger can afford to be a bit more frugal when it comes to nurturing his injured players back to a full bill of health.

If the club can survive the next three months without any major omissions, then this will only help their consistency and title credentials.

See also: Ex Arsenal target in motivational text exchange with Maradona

3: Secure considerable reinforcements in the winter window

With a reported £50m still spare in Wenger's season transfer funds, the winter window would be an ideal time to reinforce a squad with trophy ambitions. The Frenchman performed considerably well in the summer market when one factors in the setbacks he encountered in his attempts to secure the signature of Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Suarez, then Karim Benzema.

The summer acquisition of Mathieu Flamini appears thus far to be the shrewdest piece of business and the addition of Mesut Ozil, for a colossal £42.4m, is already paying dividends as the German is currently the Premier League's top assist provider (3) despite only playing twice, with a 160 minute total pitch-time to date.

Wenger, though, could boost Arsenal's title chances further with mid-season additions. The club have been linked with out-of-favour goalkeeper Iker Casillas, a return for Suarez, a push for Juventus misfit Fernando Llorente or even an extraordinary bid for Wayne Rooney, all of whom would represent key captures as Arsene continues his own Galactico assembly.

The latter three would help ease the goal-scoring burden from Olivier Giroud while Casillas, a five-time league winner with Real Madrid, would be a notable step-up from Wojtech Szczesny.

See also: Aguero more effective than Giroud, Persie, Sturridge & Benteke?

4: Defensive co-ordination

The resurgence of Per Mertesacker as a force at centre back is synonymous with Arsenal's new-found defensive co-ordination, and the credit for that has to be split between Wenger and Steve Bould.

The 6'6 German has gone from a slow-paced blunderbuss to a solid, mobile and technically-adept pillar of strength. Wenger even recently lauded Mertesacker's contribution, which was punctuated with a professional showing against Olympique Marseille in the Champions League: 'He is a dominant force.'

Currently, Arsenal have conceded six in the Premier League after five games, however, half of those were slipped in on the opening day, versus Aston Villa. Defensively, Arsenal make on average 18 tackles per game, with 13 interceptions. This is in line with the divisions best defensive teams thus far, Tottenham and Chelsea.

After the Marseille victory, Wenger praised his team's defensive spirit. If the side can maintain that rigidity at the back, it will serve them well from here till the season's end as two of the last five title winners had the greatest overall defensive record while the other three had one of the best.

See also: Wenger confirms Ozil comparisons to Arsenal legend

5: When it's time to renew contracts, over-spend

In Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski's superb book Soccernomics, the duo delve into the history of whether there is any correlation between high-spending and league-winning. What they found was that, from a study of a 20-year-period, 'the mere fact of being a buying club in the transfer market didn't help you perform significantly better than a selling club.'

They continued: 'By contrast, clubs spending on salaries was telling. [And] the size of their wage bills explained a massive 92% of variation in the league positions... it seems high wages help a club much more than do spectacular transfers.'

As part of luring Ozil to Arsenal, Wenger gave the playmaker a £6m per year deal which would span five seasons. That's roughly £115,000 per week, excluding bonuses. The manner in which he has begun his tenure at the club is already thrilling, with Wenger excitedly exclaiming that we ain't seen nothing yet.

Earlier this year, Walcott signed a three-and-a-half year contract that, at the time, made him the Gunners' highest earner on a £100,000 per week deal. He finished the season with career-best returns of 14 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League (21 and 14 in all competitions), meaning he was responsible for scoring or providing once every 95 minutes he was on the pitch.

The cases of Ozil and Walcott are in line with Kuper and Szymanski's findings so, if there came a time when current performers such as Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud's were in need of contract renewal, the best advice, perhaps, would be to overspend in order to extend exemplary form.

See also: The curious case of Mathieu Flamini: when a mercenary shows loyalty

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch