Arsene Wenger and Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League for the 16th time. The Gunners overtook fierce North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur to claim the coveted place in UEFA's premier cup competition. The Gunners, unbeaten in their final 11 matches, will take a number of positives into next season.
Here, Bleacher Report looks at five of the biggest positives for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal right now.
Positive No. 1: Santi Cazorla
Santi Cazorla had a more than memorable season for the Gunners. The 28-year-old was something of a low-key signing, even though he cost around £16 million. (h/t The Sun) But from day one, he was brilliant.
In a misfiring season where the Gunners gave rise to Spurs-like levels of inconsistency, Cazorla was the one constant shining light for Wenger and Co.
Using his left foot like a wand and his right foot like a light saber, the 5'6" Spaniard is capable of cutting any defense to pieces with his incredible vision and eye for goal.
He weighed in with 12 goals and 16 assists from 48 games for Arsenal. With Barcelona and Real Madrid being knocked out of the Champions League in the most unexpected manner, the Gunners may just have to fight to hold on to their new star.
Positive No. 2: Jack Wilshere
Quite simply, when Jack Wilshere plays, Arsenal are a completely different team. The English international is destined to have a massive season for club and country next term.
The 21-year-old is easily the most outstanding midfield-dictator in the Premier League. He controls the ebb and flow of matches with metronomic beauty and plays with a maturity that belies his tender age.
There can be no doubting that Wilshere is the most important player at Arsenal. Wenger must choose his summer signings wisely a build a team to protect and get the best out of the future star.
The main problem for the Gunners regarding Wilshere is that he is prone to injury. As the World Cup in Brazil nears, he will be called upon by Roy Hodgson to lead England's midfield.
Wenger knows all about Wilshere's importance for club and country. He battled with Stuart Pearce in 2011 over the then-19-year-old. England wanted the youngster to play in the European U-21 finals. Le Prof warned England over his use in March, and will be sure to issue similar warnings come next season.
Positive No. 3: The Checkbook
Arsenal's and Arsene Wenger's transfer policy since 2004 has blighted the club like an ugly scar. To return to where they were in the halcyon days of the Invincibles, Thierry Henry and Double-Doubles, the Gunners need to sign a number of top-class players to revive their ills.
Whichever way you look at, it the Gunners need to spend and spend fast to improve the team.
The Daily Mail is reporting that Wenger will spend this summer and quotes the Frenchman as saying;
The last three months is a springboard for next season. We have to transfer that belief into the start of next season, we need stability and to strengthen.
Is it spending a lot on one player or buying many players?
We want additions, but we want to keep the structure and spirit and quality of the team.
What all that adds up to is that, for the first time in years, Wenger has seemingly committed to make major signings in a transfer window.
Positive No. 4: The Spirit of the Team
Wenger achieved what he set out to do at the start of the season. He guided Arsenal to the promised land of fourth place in the English Premier League. A last-day victory over Newcastle United was enough to see off Tottenham Hotspur, who finished fifth.
In March, after Arsenal lost at White Hart Lane, finishing fourth looked almost impossible. Spurs were playing some of the best football in the EPL this season and had just moved seven points clear.
The Gunners spent the 10 days following the Spurs defeat reflecting upon what might have been. But rather than shrink back into their shell, they came out fighting.
Their season turned on the 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena. Between Feb. 16 and March 3, Arsenal lost 1-0 to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup, 3-1 to Bayern Munich (both games were at the Emirates) and Spurs. Their season was all but over.
That 2-0 win opened up a glimmer of hope for Wenger and his team, and they charged right in.
Eleven unbeaten games later and Arsenal had finished fourth.
Talking to Sky Sports, Wenger heaped praise on his team and commended their great spirit;
I'm proud of the character and the spirit, especially with all we had to deal with during the season.
The players are special. I've told them many times and they've shown it. In the last two months they have been absolutely exceptional.
It's a good basis, as well, on a longer term to go into next season on such a strong run.
I'm very proud. We were very far behind Tottenham and even after defeat there (at White Hart Lane) we've shown character and attitude to come back and make 73 points, which is three points better than last season.
I have had many groups in my life and the focus and the desire to do well was always exceptional. It's one of the best groups I've had in my life on that front.
The combination of quality and attitude has been great, and that's why I always had faith that we would come back.
Positive No. 5: Tottenham's Agony equals Arsenal's Ecstasy
In any other year, the Gunners would not even dream of celebrating finishing fourth. This season was a little bit different, though. Spurs and Arsenal share a long and heated rivalry. In recent years, the White Hart Lane-based outfit has not had the players or finances to challenge the Gunners' dominance.
Under the chairmanship of Daniel Levy, Spurs have grown as a club. They now possess one of the best training grounds in the world and are almost ready to build a new stadium. They have the potential to be a coming force in the Premier League.
Arsenal's victory over Newcastle, which guaranteed Champions League qualification over Spurs, could have huge ramifications for years to come. Financially, it has denied their North London rivals a massive UCL revenue stream.
This potential loss of £25 million, combined with Arsenal's potential gain of £25 million and another £25 million through gate receipts, means the gap between the two clubs could be as much as £100 million next season.
Andre Villas-Boas put on a brave face when he said (h/t Yahoo Sports):
I said before this game that, whether we made it into the Champions League or not, we would have to raise the bar again because our competitors will do the same.
We got ever so close, but they will do their job in [the transfer] window and we will do ours the Tottenham way, scouting properly and looking for good grabs in summer window to make it a stronger squad.
Fortunately for Arsenal the "Tottenham way" means that Spurs will not be competing in the same transfer market.
Positive No. 6: Arsene Knows Best
Between fan protests, poor results, falling to 10th place in the English Premier League for the first time since 1994, calls for his head and the club's AGM in October being hijacked by irate fans, to say that 2012-13 has been a tough season for Arsene Wenger would be the understatement of the footballing year.
Amidst all the furor, Wenger still managed to guide his team to fourth place in the English Premier League. The longest-serving manager in English football and the EPL, now that Sir Alex Ferguson has retired, continues to prove he is a great manager.
Over the last two seasons, the Gunners have lost Robin van Persie, Alex Song, Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to rival clubs. Each and every time an important player parts ways with his beloved Arsenal, he replaces them with aplomb.
Next season, he is expected to add to the squad in a significant manner.
If he brings in the right players, Arsenal will challenge for the title, because like the old saying goes; Arsene knows best.
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