5 Main Reasons Why Arsenal Will Improve Next Season
Despite toiling their way through an eighth trophyless year in a row, there are reasons why Arsenal will improve next season. Chief among those reasons is the resilience and confidence inspired by the unbeaten run to finish last season.
That showed a side to this team not all of Arsenal's recent squads possessed. Combine that with a core of talented English players ready to make their mark.
The presence of a true midfield maestro will also push Arsenal to improve. As will the influence of a manager savagely and unfairly criticized in recent years.
Here are the main reasons why Arsenal will improve next season.
1. English Core
The English core that Wenger has laboured to produce will reap rewards during the 2013/14 season. The quartet of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere can inspire Arsenal to greater things.
Each player is maturing into a key figure within the squad. Gibbs is rapidly developing into the country's finest left-back and the natural successor to Ashley Cole at international level.
It should be an insult to Arsenal fans everywhere when Leighton Baines is selected to represent England ahead of Gibbs. The former Wimbledon prodigy has blossomed into the very model of a Wenger left-back.
His defending has improved considerably and Gibbs is displaying greater confidence going forward. It says a lot that he managed to keep £8.5 million signing Nacho Monreal mostly confined to the bench.
Chamberlain is a mercurial talent with the ability to emerge as a key central midfield presence. The talent is there, now it is time for some authority and consistency.
The other half of Arsenal's homegrown quartet figures to define their trophy-winning hopes for years to come. Walcott and Wilshere have now become essential to Wenger's plans.
Walcott finally emerged as a true game-winner last season. That is not faint praise from one of his biggest critics.
To his credit, the speedy forward at last produced the 20-goal season he should always manage. Walcott now seems primed to become a reliable performer.
Wilshere's return to full health can only be a big boost. His drive and tenacity are invaluable traits. The next step for Wenger has to be identifying his best role.
Wilshere could be this team's halfway line metronome. Or he could be developed into a true advanced, creative ace.
Whichever option Wenger chooses will determine most of Arsenal's transfer plans this summer. Either way, there is no disputing Wilshere is ready to prove his worth.
2. Santi Cazorla
Santi Cazorla's superb first season for Arsenal is only a glimpse of things to come. The cerebral attacking midfielder makes Arsenal a viable contender.
Cazorla has wasted no time becoming the creative hub of this team. His intelligence and flair perfectly suit and define Arsenal's style of play.
The pint-sized maestro plays with daring and imagination and his class can make the difference in any game. A priority for Wenger has to be finding the right way to let Cazorla flourish and also offering more support for his stylish playmaker.
Not wanting to trot out that over-used Wengerism "spirit," the current Arsenal squad has certainly displayed more resolve than previous incarnations. It is that determination and unity that will serve this team well in the new season.
Arsenal's resilience was borne out of the challenges they have faced during the last two years. An 8-2 drubbing from an old foe and cup exits to lower-league opponents might have broken most teams.
Instead, the savage criticism from the pundits and their own fans seemed to unite this Arsenal bunch. What also held them together is the presence of solid veterans like Per Mertesacker.
The English Premier League's most undervalued player was a colossus at times last season. Along with Mikel Arteta, Mertesacker has given this Arsenal team backbone and a defiant attitude.
Mertesacker cannot help but be defiant. Because no matter how many clean sheets he is responsible for, the credit will always go somewhere else. He will always be seen as a weak link.
That creates a siege mentality within a player that has clearly spread throughout this squad. Arsenal's never say die attitude during the final two months of the season was awesome to witness.
This team simply refused to lose. That explains their euphoria on the season's final day. It also revealed a steely resolve that will make Arsenal a force in the new campaign.
4. Arsene Wenger
It may be easy for many to disagree with Arsene Wenger's methods. But it is impossible not to marvel at the staying power of Arsenal's polarizing manager.
No matter how many stars he loses, or how many clubs at both ends of the table outspend him, Wenger keeps trying to turn the corner with Arsenal.
How many other teams could have survived the loss of players the stature of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie in consecutive summers? Yet Arsenal remain a top-four team.
Wenger proved last season—not that he had to—his willingness to make the tough choices to keep Arsenal in the top-four mix. He dropped key senior players and, more impressively, sacrificed his own beliefs about attacking football to position Arsenal to scrap for valuable results.
No matter what combination of players and tactics he throws together every summer, Wenger expects his teams to go out and win against any opponent.
Maybe that is misguided idealism from the Frenchman. Maybe it is stubborn naivety from modern football's last true despot.
Whatever the truth, what cannot be denied is that Wenger's determination for the Arsenal cause is as strong as ever. That has to be good news heading into the new season, because a bullish Wenger should scare the rest of the EPL.
5. New Additions
This is a prickly subject considering the quite worrying expectation Wenger will spend big this summer.
Whatever form Arsenal's spending does take, it is certain there will be new additions.
It is still easy to get excited by new signings from Wenger. Given his track record, there is always the chance he will produce a marquee talent, even from the most modest acquisition.
Not every player Arsenal are being linked with this summer represents a modest acquisition. In particular, the club has been linked with Fiorentina's Stevan Jovetic so often, it already feels like he has played a decade in an Arsenal shirt.
Jovetic would be a dream acquisition for Arsenal. The creative forward is the ideal Wenger player. At 23, he is primed to be developed into a top-level star.
His technique and guile would improve the quality, pace and flow of Arsenal's attacking play. Other notable targets appear to include veteran goalkeeper Julio Cesar, according to Metro.
After seasons of calamities from unproven and youthful stoppers, an experienced 'keeper would certainly be welcome. There will also be room for the classic Wenger surprise.
Things will unfold at their own pace in the transfer market. Whichever way Wenger goes, a few fresh faces will certainly help Arsenal improve for the new season.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!