10 Things Arsenal Learned from the 2013/14 Premier League Season
2013/14 will be remembered as a season of progress for Arsenal. The Gunners improved upon their points tally for the previous year, and they spent a large proportion of the campaign at the top of the Premier League table.
However, it will also be remembered as a year of regrets. Had Arsenal's form been more consistent, they might have snatched the title away from Manchester City.
In this piece, we look at 10 lessons they can learn from this campaign to stand them in good stead next season.
Build the Team Around Aaron Ramsey
2013/14 will be remembered as the season when Aaron Ramsey announced himself to European football. When fit, his form was extraordinary. The way he has recovered from a four-month absence suggests his early-season performances were anything but a purple patch: The transformation is permanent.
Moving forward, Arsenal should build their team around the Welshman’s box-to-box game. He has the potential to form the hub of the side for years to come.
Arsenal Need to Supplement Their Attacking Options
Olivier Giroud has enjoyed a decent season, improving upon his goal tally from 2012/13. However, for much of the campaign he has toiled alone without much support. It’s a huge task to demand he spearhead Arsenal’s attack alone. Would Luis Suarez have won Footballer of the Year without the support provided by Daniel Sturridge? Would Sergio Aguero be quite as lethal without Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko distracting defenders? Almost certainly not.
Manchester City and Liverpool ended the Premier League season with 102 and 101 goals respectively. Arsenal scored just 68. It’s clear there is significant room for improvement in the final third.
Interrogate the Injury Issue
Arsenal seem to pick up more injuries than any other club. At one stage this season, the first-team squad was without an entire XI of potential players.
Arsene Wenger has suggested the club will conduct a root-and-branch investigation of their training methods and medical procedures. Such thorough examination is required to ensure Arsenal’s squad is fighting fit in 2014/15.
Build a Squad to Withstand an Injury Crisis
Seeing as Arsenal are so susceptible to injuries, they must assemble a squad capable of surviving a spate of absences. The loss of Theo Walcott to an anterior cruciate ligament injury was unfortunate, but the problem was exacerbated by the fact that no other player in the squad possesses comparable attributes.
Arsenal need to try and provide cover for every eventuality.
Speculate to Accumulate
In January, Arsenal led the Premier League table. Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott were both sidelined with injury, and Gunners fans urged Arsene Wenger to bring in an exciting attacking player to aid their push for glory.
Instead, Wenger made the underwhelming loan signing of midfielder Kim Kallstrom. Arsenal subsequently fell away, and were left to nurse regrets about their failure to spend in the transfer window.
If the Gunners are in a similar position next season, Wenger must be bold in the market.
Be More Cautious Away to Your Rivals
Arsene Wenger is, by his very nature, an attack-minded coach. However, when setting up his team for some of their biggest matches of 2013/14, he was far too cavalier.
Arsenal were subsequently thrashed 6-3, 5-1 and 6-0 at Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea respectively. The Gunners would benefit from a more conservative approach when travelling to face their title rivals.
Improve Set Pieces
In Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal have two players more than capable of delivering a decent dead-ball. However, according to WhoScored, the Gunners have scored just eight from a set piece this season. Liverpool, by contrast, have managed 26.
Arsenal can not afford to ignore such an important part of the game. A good portion of Arsenal’s pre-season training camp should be spent on improving their set-piece routines.
Lukas Podolski Is a Vital Squad Member
For much of the season, it seemed as if Lukas Podolski was on his way out of the club. After recovering from a troublesome hamstring injury, he struggled to force his way in to the Arsenal XI. However, the injury to Theo Walcott and then Mesut Ozil allowed him to get a rare chance in the side. Once he got in, his impact was enormous.
In this season’s Premier League, he has scored eight goals in 14 starts. He’s the most lethal finisher at the club, and should undoubtedly be a part of Arsene Wenger’s plans going forward.
Arsenal Do Not Need a New No. 1
In the summer of 2013, Arsenal were linked extensively with bringing in a new goalkeeper. According to the Daily Mail, they looked closely at Brazilian international Julio Cesar.
However, Wojciech Szczesny has responded to the speculation with his best season in an Arsenal shirt. Arsenal no longer need a more experienced stopper: Szczesny is showing the maturity required from an undisputed No. 1.
Per Mertesacker Is the True Captain
Club captain Thomas Vermaelen has spent much of the Premier League season on the sidelines. In his absence, vice-captain Mikel Arteta has tended to wear the captain's armband.
However, there can be no doubt that the team's true leader is giant German defender Per Mertesacker. In the event of Vermaelen's departure, Mertesacker should leapfrog Arteta to become skipper on a permanent basis.