Arsenal fans were treated to a double dose of delight when Thomas Vermaelen lifted the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium on May 17—yes, their trophy drought was over, but it also sparked the end of the banal jokes that have plagued their club for almost a decade.
With the Gunners once again proving to be a force in the English game, manager Arsene Wenger was rewarded with a three-year contract extension on Friday—per BBC Sport—as the North London air regained its optimism.
Though Arsenal boast a star-studded squad, Wenger revealed that he has big transfer plans for the club this summer as it looks to build upon its 2013/14 success—as ITV reported:
We have shown signs the whole season that we can be a great side and now it's (important) of course to have another successful season. We know we have to... have a successful June and July, that's where you strengthen the team. It's very important that we are good now in the next two months until the end of August, that we can give to the team some more quality. What I can promise is that we work very hard on a market that is very, very congested with many people who have a lot of money.
In terms of adding world-class quality to a side, you can't aim a lot higher than Real Madrid's Angel di Maria, who enjoyed a sensational season at the Bernabeu last term.
The 26-year-old scored four goals and assisted on a league-high 17 more in La Liga—perWhoScored.com—playing an integral part in Real's triumph over neighbours Atletico in the Champions League final on May 24.
Such statistics and performances make the Argentine's reported departure from the Spanish capital mystifying. Not that Arsenal will care, though, as they are said to be targeting Di Maria's signature, according to Paul Collins of Daily Mail.
Collins' report reveals that the winger is aware of clubs chasing him, though he insists that he's happy at Real—per Marca:
I am not going to lie, I know that there are clubs that want to sign me and can match Real Madrid's demands. But that's up to my representatives and the club. I will stay if the club wants me to stay. I am not thinking about my future now. We will see what Madrid have in mind, whether they want me to stay or leave. I am happy at Madrid. I had a great season and always had everybody's support. But sometimes you don't have a choice, even when you want to stay yourself.
Di Maria would be a valuable asset to any side—as he is to the Spanish giants—but would fit in particularly well at Arsenal.
His no-nonsense style of attacking, combined with his lightning pace, would go a long way to seeing Arsenal's habit of trying one pass too many on the way to goal cease, and linking up with the likes of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla in midfield would make the Gunners a terrifying opposition.
Di Maria also has a trait that is common among all Arsenal fans—a rather sour opinion of the white side of North London in an interview with Marca (via ESPN.com).
Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, Arsenal saw their approach for Atletico Madrid star Juanfran knocked back as their quest to replace Bacary Sagna continued—according to John Cross of The Mirror.
The French right-back confirmed that he would be leaving the Emirates this summer, with Wenger hoping that Juanfran would be able to come in as a like-for-like replacement.
As Cross writes, Arsenal were hoping to launch a £9 million bid to lure the 29-year-old away from the La Liga champions, but reports indicate that he wants to remain in the Spanish capital.
With the Juanfran deal looking out the window, Wenger's attention will likely turn to Toulouse star Serge Aurier, who recently said that turning down a move to Arsenal would be difficult—per Eurosport France (via The Independent):
I will privilege the one that will show the most interest in me, that will give me the most game time. After that, you can't really say 'no' to Arsenal. It's a club with history, with a French manager, who has welcomed many French players.
Though the French connection has Aurier sold on a move to the Emirates, fans are sceptical as to whether the 21-year-old has what it takes to fill the boots of the highly rated Sagna.
However, as Gooner Mind's statistics show, the young Frenchman looks every bit as solid as his compatriot, with his attacking flair just about giving him the edge:
It's full credit to Wenger and Arsenal that they're looking to strengthen, but the French manager needs to make sensible signings rather than impulse ones.
Another Kim Kallstrom fiasco certainly wouldn't go down well among the Arsenal faithful, but in Di Maria and Aurier, Wenger could land two players who would certainly make a big impact in the Premier League.
With Champions League football once again at the Emirates next term, intelligent spending from the Arsenal boss could see them repeat their exploits of 2005/06, where they went all the way to the final in Europe's elite competition.
Bright times lie ahead for the Gunners, and with the FA Cup triumph numbing the silverware pain, Wenger now has a platform from which to build and make Arsenal a football superpower once again.
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