The Arsenal trophy drought has been very well documented. For supporters so used to picking up silverware on a regular basis, it has certainly been a tough spell. The owners, the manager and the players having all been held accountable at one point or another.
But despite the eight barren years, Arsenal will be in a strong position to challenge for the top honors next season. Four determining factors seem to be falling favorably for them both internally and externally.
The Gunners are the only realistic title challengers that will not be subject to seismic changes this summer. Chelsea will have to adapt to yet another managerial change under Jose Mourinho, whereas both Manchester teams will also start the campaign with new bosses. United have turned to David Moyes, who has no history challenging for major trophies and City look set to appoint Manuel Pellegrini, who has no experience of working in the English game.
It would be fair to say that the leagues three best sides have all taken respective gambles in their appointments. As such, there is potential for instability at each club and an extending settling in period is not out of the question for any. If Chelsea, City or United are slow out of the blocks, then Arsenal can capitalize.
But what guarantee is there Arsenal are going to start positively? Well, for the first time in a while Arsene Wenger’s side look like a settled outfit going into a summer break. It almost seems as if they are the sole constant in a changing landscape within the upper reaches of the English game. Both in terms of management and playing staff. And as we shift our focus to Arsenal’s own development, it is perhaps the latter that will be of most encouragement to Gunners supporters.
Wenger will have a settled, cohesive squad to build upon without having to plug gaps left by departing stars. Over the course of the eight trophy-less years, the team have usually settled well in the latter stages of the season, before the sale of key men gives way to a rebuilding job in the summer. This is a cycle that has been repeated far too often for Gunners supporters’ liking.
This summer, you expect it might be broken. The current squad finished in typically strong fashion, picking up 26 points from the 30 on offer in their last 10 games. But this off-season Wenger is not expected to sell any of his key assets. Quite the opposite in fact, for Arsenal are expected to build on those solid foundations.
The team last year, in the main, stepped up after the sales of Robin Van Persie and Alex Song. In Van Persie’s absence, Theo Walcott took on the mantle of being the side’s main goal scoring threat, while Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud have also chipped in with double-figure returns.
And it’s not just up front, other areas of the side also look particularly well established. The midfield in particular looks as good as any in England. Cazorla has demonstrated his class with a plethora of excellent showings, whereas Jack Wilshere looks set to get a long overdue full preseason. Mikel Arteta emerged as a quality deep-lying playmaker and Aaron Ramsey also finished the season with a flourish.
This projected progression seems even more likely when you consider the club’s financial standing, which is looking stronger than ever. The much coveted money from the Premier League’s bumper television deal will hit bank accounts over the summer, whilst Arsenal have also secured momentous deals with kit sponsor Emirates and a new kit manufacturer Puma; the biggest in English football history. For the first time in a while, expect Wenger to splash the cash.
Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic looks as though he will be the marquee signing this summer and his playing style suggest he would excel at Arsenal. He has remarkable technical skills, wonderful agility and a cool head in front of goal. Julio Cesar also looks set to come in from QPR, and his experience means he would be another excellent acquisition.
Others will no doubt follow, and the integration of some younger players will also give the squad an added buzz. Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are just a couple who could play much more significant roles next year.
Finally, those players who came into the side this time will be much more acclimatized to the fast and furious nature of the English Premier League when they go again in August. So expect the likes of Nacho Monreal, Podolski and Giroud to build on solid debut seasons. Cazorla too, despite a remarkable first campaign with the club, can be an even bigger influence next year.
Whilst there was much ridicule about the manner in which Arsenal celebrated their fourth place finish, it could prove to be an enormous moment for the club. If they’d missed out on Champions League football this season, then who knows what would have happened this summer.
But with top-level European football in the bag, the North London giants can look to a summer of stability, whilst all those around them will have to embrace uncertainty. With that in mind, perhaps the Gunners will have something a bit more to prestigious to be celebrating this time next year.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball