For Arsenal to improve next season, manager Arsene Wenger must find the right balance between midfield and attack, add a prolific striker and finally fix the goalkeeper problem.
Identifying the right balance in his team's forward play could be the trickiest task of the bunch. It could also be the most important.
It is fair to say Arsenal have not been at their free-flowing best going forward this season and that is a real shame.
One of the true pleasures of the Wenger era has been the expansive, attractive football Arsenal have played under the Frenchman's watch. Their intricate, forward-thinking combinations set Arsenal apart from any other team in the English Premier League.
More than just offering bragging rights, no matter how hollow, Arsenal's best football is simply a treat to watch.
Snobbery or no, it is how the game should be played. Yet the formula has deserted this season's Arsenal for long stretches of a frustrating campaign.
It is perhaps understandable that after losing the creative talents of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, along with the technical majesty of Robin van Persie, Arsenal would not produce the same artistry.
However, even this edition of Wenger's squad are at their best when their passing expresses ideas and flair. When they have done that, this team has been thrilling.
The reason these examples are so few is the absence of symmetry and precision between the midfield and forward lines. The problem is most evident at the tip of Arsenal's midfield trio.
This is the position Fabregas dominated from and Wenger has so far struggled to fill. When Santi Cazorla played the role at the start of the season, the Gunners displayed greater pace and craft in possession.
The problem was Cazorla had little support in bearing the burden of creativity. Fabregas could rely on Nasri and, to some extent, van Persie.
When Dennis Bergkamp gave fans the privilege of witnessing his class, he was more than ably supported by Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira. No such dynamic trio—or even duo—exists in the present-day Arsenal squad.
Wenger attempted to solve the problem by first moving Cazorla to the flank. It was the smart choice and Cazorla has not been as ineffective on the left as some would argue. Shifting him out wide made room for an additional creative player in the center.
Wenger first placed Jack Wilshere there. However, despite his direct style, Wilshere has struggled to display enough ingenuity to add a flourish to Arsenal's attacking approach.
Czech veteran Tomas Rosicky replaced an injured Wilshere and things were initially better. The performance of Arsenal's midfield—including Cazorla—against West Bromwich Albion, was the best this season.
Movement was fluid and clever and was accompanied by passing executed with the purpose of keeping the team moving forward. However, Rosicky has slumped slightly since his brace against West Brom and Cazorla is clearly fatigued.
Worst still, there is little help from Arsenal's central strikers. Olivier Giroud can link well with midfielders on occasion. Other times, his touch often lets him down and he is not quick enough to stay with the flow of attacks built on pace.
Lukas Podolski has the technique to be an asset in intricate forward moves. Sadly, matching that technique with effort seems to offend his sensibilities.
Wenger simply does not have the creative axis he needs to underpin his mode of play. That is why mooted transfer target Stevan Jovetic seems like a must.
The Fiorentina forward's technical grace and cerebral style would dovetail very well with Cazorla and an improved Wilshere. What Wenger needs is a striker who is not simply more prolific in front of goal, but who also offers a strong creative output.
That would allow Wenger to continue playing two deep midfielders. Supplementing the base of the midfield with an extra man, has improved the defensive structure, but the attack has suffered. However, that is the fault of the quality of the options up front, particularly through the middle.
Once he has found the right player or players to boost that quality, Wenger's attention must move to the goalkeeping area.
Goalkeeper has been an issue for too long. It has hamstrung Wenger's plans since he ditched Jens Lehmann two league games into the 2007/08 season.
Wojciech Szczesny seemed like the solution, but he remains inconsistent despite starting since Decemeber, 2010. Fellow Poland international Lukasz Fabianski is certainly a keen deputy.
However, no matter how well Fabianski plays, his best performances offer relief instead of conviction. Not many would feel confident with Fabianksi as the recognized first choice.
Identifying a quality option has to be a summer priority for Wenger. If he is reticent to pay the hefty prices to land Asmir Begovic or Simon Mignolet, then Rene Adler would be a fine alternative.
The Germany international has been linked with an Arsenal move by The Daily Mirror. He would bring credibility and stability to a vital area.
With greater confidence at the back and increased fluidity in forward areas, Arsenal can mount a title challenge next term. Yet Wenger's work this summer will be significant.
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