Arsenal: 5 Things Arsene Wenger Needs to Do to Win the Title Next Year
Arsenal celebrated finishing in fourth place like they had just won the title.
The Gunners certainly have the resources to do so this summer, and their Champions League qualification affords them the foundation on which to build lasting success.
Let's look at how Wenger can accomplish that between now and the beginning of next season.
Make Thomas Vermaelen's Move to the Bench Permanent
And if that means appointing Mikel Arteta captain, so be it.
Juxtaposing Thomas Vermaelen's performances this past season with those of Laurent Koscielny, who replaced him, is like comparing the taste of raw stew meat with a gourmet filet mignon.
The Frenchman forged an extremely solid partnership with Per Mertesacker at the back and was superb in Arsenal's final games. He capped an excellent display of late-season form with a man-of-the-match performance against Newcastle.
Vermaelen, and his propensity for comedic defensive errors, does not belong in a team that has taken such great defensive strides.
Sign a Striker
And no, not Yaya Sanogo, as Sky Sports reports.
Arsenal struggled to cope when their only true striker, Olivier Giroud, was suspended near the end of the season. An unfit and disheveled Lukas Podolski filled in at a mediocre level.
It is unacceptable for a club of Arsenal's stature, with their lofty ambitions, to only have one true striker on staff. There is no reason why the club should have to test its luck so much, without having a backup due to loss of form, injury or tactical necessities.
Players like the oft-mooted Stevan Jovetic or Gonzalo Higuain, according to the Mirror, would be perfect. Certainly, more than a raw 20-year-old French talent is needed to shore up the forward line.
Rotate the Midfield
Even without the permanently injured Abou Diaby, Arsenal's midfield is stacked. With all the versatile players on the wage bill, it is difficult to justify bringing any new faces in.
Yet Arsene Wenger will have even more problems next season, when Jack Wilshere regains full fitness and will presumably be ready to resume his formerly excellent caliber of play.
The tactical problem is thus: Arsenal use a three-man midfield, but all of Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Wilshere deserve starting spots based on merit. Cazorla can, and has, played out wide, but that marginalizes him and prevents Lukas Podolski from getting game time on the wing.
Wenger's only solution is rotation. By switching his players in and out of the lineup, he can maintain tactical flexibility and unpredictability, while keeping fresh those who might otherwise be run into the ground.
Repeat After Me: Podolski, Giroud, Walcott
After some fairly tedious research, I found that Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, commonly regarded as Arsenal's first-choice front three, started together on only four occasions this past season.
Considering that the former two were brought in to be automatic starters, and the latter is among the highest-paid players at the club, that is astounding.
There are many reasons why this trio was not able to coalesce for any significant period of time. Chief among them, though, is Santi Cazorla.
The Spaniard belongs in midfield. Perhaps Arsene Wenger started him on the left wing game after game to compensate for Podolski's bothersome ankle, but Cazorla was still somewhat marginalized, and his attempts to thrust himself into the fore deprived the Gunners of width out wide.
Even if Wenger has to sacrifice someone in midfield, Cazorla must move back to the center, allowing Podolski, Giroud and Walcott to have the brilliant menage a trois that was always waiting to occur.
Make Rational, Sensible Purchases This Summer
Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Arsenal's recent history knows that Wenger already has this job done, but rationality is nevertheless worth espousing.
After the much-discussed new sponsorship deals were signed and sealed, the club found itself flush with funds that were previously unavailable due to restrictive contracts and the debt of the Emirates Stadium's construction.
Now that these financial hurdles have been overcome and a top-four finish achieved, there is a sturdy foundation in place for long-term growth.
But there is no need to listen to the Piers Morgans of the world and make ludicrous bids for a few high-profile stars in areas of need.
Those who carefully watched Arsenal's games during the 2012-13 season know that there are many quality players in the team (see Bayern Munich 0-2 Arsenal), but this group just lacked a certain element that champions have.
As I have argued before, it is not impossible for Arsenal to win the title next year. But a number of intelligent, reasoned decisions by the club's brass will be needed to achieve that end.