I will never advise fans to look too far ahead, but it is becoming increasingly difficult not to for Arsenal supporters.
Long gone are the doldrums that plagued the Gunners at the beginning of the season, as Arsene Wenger’s men are seven games unbeaten and looking to finish the year on a massive high.
The schedule is pretty favorable for Arsenal from here on out, and with third place all theirs for the time being, there is still plenty to play for.
But without getting too carried away before this season even ends, I want to point out a few reasons why next year can’t come soon enough.
It is crazy to think that the Gunners have been so successful lately all through the absence of Jack Wilshere.
Then again, their terrible play at the beginning of the season can be credited to his absence as well.
The young Englishman came to light last season and is considered the next big thing not only at the Emirates, but in world football. The future of the FA is taking his sweet time rehabbing and coming back from his lengthy injury, and with good intention.
The last thing the Gunners need to do is rush their starlet back too soon, and Wenger has been cautious in this approach. It’s been a grueling recovery process for the 20-year-old, who has had his come-back date pushed back more than a few times already. But by the time the 2012/2013 season rolls around, Wilshere should be back to fitness and ready to pick up right where he left off.
Many argue that Wilshere, if he does come back sooner then expected, should still be considered for England’s Euro 2012 team. I hope this isn’t the case, because while he obviously will be lacking match sharpness and endurance, he will need time to get acclimated to playing at the intensity he is used to. Nonetheless, the hopes of having Wilshere for a full season next year already brings a smile to the Arsenal faithful.
Just like Wilshere in the previous year, this season has been no different in introducing some new faces to the Arsenal fold.
Names like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin and Ignasi Miquel are just a few players who have seen first-team action thus far. And even though he is more seasoned, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny has grown leaps and bounds with his development.
The biggest standouts of the bunch have got to be Woj and the Ox. Szczęsny has quieted Arsenal’s longtime keeper woes with an array of steady and mature displays in net. The gloves are his for a long time and his leadership and instincts are indicative to his success.
Many were left scratching their heads when Wenger shelled out some £15 million for Oxlade-Chamberlain, a product of Southampton, which deemed the 18-year-old as Arsenal’s most expensive summer signing. Questioning Wenger at that time was common though, and validating the raw, inexperienced winger to his price tag seemed difficult to do.
There is no denying the money was well spent and the Ox is officially a hit at the Emirates, and looks ready to take a larger role in this team come next year. He has been scintillating when given his chance and his showing in the barrage against Blackburn in February was the highlight of the youngster’s career.
With many of Arsenal’s youthful talent out on loan getting experience, the future is bright and next season a lot of them could challenge for positions in the first team—something Arsene will have no issues sorting out.
Arsenal have always been a shrewd club who refused to bend their transfer policies. They never spent outrageous money like their competitors, and opted to nurture and cultivate talent that came at a meager expense.
From the looks of it, starting this summer those ideologies are going to change a bit.
Wenger and his board are looking to bolster the current squad and want to acquire some longevity to compete for years to come. A laundry list of names have been linked with the Gunners as the summer approaches, and bringing in a few marquee names is a lot more believable this time around.
Next seasons should see a revamped roster that will only be stronger, because every manager knows depth is vital in the Premier League. Having the funds to do just that, Arsenal fans should be ecstatic that some signings are on the horizon.
Arsenal are looking to end the season on a positive and they will continue to battle for that coveted third place spot in the table. Automatic qualification to next year’s Champions League is crucial in order to avoid playing in to the tournament, and extra rest is necessary for any squad searching for a title.
That being said, the current campaign has certainly been a rollercoaster and has taken a lot out of Wenger and his men, physically and mentally. Next year there will be higher expectations for the club, because they deserve to hold themselves to these standards.
Also, a lot of players have used this crazy season to put criticism to rest. One player in particular, Theo Walcott, has personified this notion. The young England winger has seen his stock grow from questionable has-been to perennial force on this team. So many were quick to write him off and doubt his capabilities, but he has burst through that playing plateau to become an important figure in Wenger’s side.
Something that is frightening fans of the Gunners is the prospect of Robin Van Persie’s future. It has been nearly impossible to dodge the topic and even RVP himself has put of talks until the summer.
While there have been speculation from various sources surrounding his plans, I without a doubt know he will resign with Arsenal. Not only is he the club captain, experiencing the best form of his career and scoring at a blistering pace, he is adored at the Emirates and his family is accustomed to life in London.
He has absolutely no reason to leave and with the terrific turnaround during the second half, the Dutchman shouldn’t hesitate to put pen to paper. The idea of bringing in a sufficient striker to partner RVP will also go a long way in his decision making.
There were times this year where this team looked like a Championship squad, and getting to this point seemed downright laughable. Yet they weathered the storm, remained positive, trusted their manager and came back to life.
Wenger kept his usual cool and his players gradually defied odds that were stacked against them. The near-comeback against Milan a few weeks ago showed how much fight the team still has and perhaps if they were consistent all year, stayed injury-free and brought in players sooner, things would be even better.
After hitting a literal rock bottom at first, I feel this squad can achieve plenty in the 2012/2013 season. If there is one thing this club doesn’t lack, it is character, and I am anxious to see how this squad tackles future challenges.
But let’s finish up the remaining schedule, right?