So the season is over and we are basking in the glory of another FA cup, a prize won by Arsenal more than any other club. The difference between Arsenal’s victories in the two cup finals could not have been much bigger. The first one was nervy and needed a mighty turnaround, but the last one was very professional, with clear signs that Arsene is getting nearer to his next established top team. We are strong in all areas and we have a squad of players with individual growth potential: so many are likely to make further progress next season. Ozil, Rambo, Jack, Alexis, Theo, Gibbs, Bellerin, Ollie, Coquelin, Ox, Welbeck, Szczesny and a few others: all are likely to become stronger and sharper. But key will be to give them plenty of opportunity to play and not to stifle them with buying too many new top players.
Arsene will have to decide what to do next: allow for intrinsic progress of these talented players, add established top quality players, or a mixture of both. He has money in his pockets and the fans like to spend, spend, spend, so the temptation is there, but is it the best thing to do for the team? The combination of recent successes – FA Cup and straight qualification for CL football – would suggest to opt for building further on what we have. If either Jack, Welbeck or Ox have a Ramboesque breakthrough season, and the rest make a step improvement, we can win the league without having to buy any more players. But of course, this could also backfire; it is not without risk…
BFG, Cech, Koz, Santi, Nacho, Rosa, Flamini and Debuchy can be the experienced players to give us stability and backbone.
For me, three things are key to make further progress:
Firstly, we need more goals from midfield. We need more from Jack, Santi and Mesut and the question is whether we have enough fire power with these three. Rambo, fit and in form, will get goals; Jack has made progress but has been injured too long to make a proper judgement, and Mesut still needs to find a better balance between being an enabler and finisher. With Ollie in the holding striker role, we have been over reliant on Alexis to benefit from his services. We will need a better spread of goals throughout the team.
Secondly, Theo’s long absence has not helped here, but it looks like Arsene does not want to play him on the right anymore. Walcott is not strong enough defensively and looks like the ideal Plan B striker next season. This, in my opinion, is the spot Ox should be claiming, but a mixture of defensive frailties and lack of goals are not helping. I love the guy but am not sure whether he will make it: he really needs to make a step improvement next season.
Thirdly, we need to be able to bounce back straightaway if and when key players, like Giroud, Ozil, Alexis, Coquelin, Cech and Rambo get injured. I reckon we have quality cover in the team for most of these players but especially up front we are vulnerable to injuries to Alexis and Giroud, and many of us will argue that an injury to Coquelin will also leave us exposed.
So, there you go fine fellow Gooners, which three steps do we need to take to make us proper title contenders next season?