The silverware drought is over. Now the question for Arsenal will be whether this is the year they return to the summit of Premier League football and win their first league title since the 2003-04 season.
Arsene Wenger's men begin the new campaign with a home match against Crystal Palace, as reported by the club's website:
A year ago, it appeared they were going to be in the running for the title but injuries to players like Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and a slew of others down the stretch made the dream unreachable. Still, bolstered by last summer's signing of Mesut Ozil and the continued development of several young players, Ramsey chief amongst them, there is reason for optimism.
The Gunners will have holes to fill this summer, of course, and they will be saying goodbye to long-term right-back Bacary Sagna. But with a few key signings and the ability to avoid getting hit by the injury plague again this season, Arsenal have an excellent shot at winning the title.
They'll certainly be hoping for more tweets like this one from Jack Wilshere next year:
Thanks to all the Gooners out there who made it to the Parade today.... Have to say, one of the best days of my Life! #AFC— Jack Wilshere (@JackWilshere) May 18, 2014
Let's take a look at the fixture list and break down some of the key matchups and storylines for the Gunners.
|Aug. 16.||3 p.m. BST||Crystal Palace (H)|
|Aug. 23.||3 p.m. BST||Everton (A)|
|Aug. 30.||3 p.m. BST||Leicester (A)|
|Sept. 13.||3 p.m. BST||Manchester City (H)|
|Sept. 20.||3 p.m. BST||Aston Villa (A)|
|Sept. 27.||3 p.m. BST||Tottenham Hotspur (H)|
|Oct. 4.||3 p.m. BST||Chelsea (A)|
|Oct. 18.||3 p.m. BST||Hull City (H)|
|Oct. 25.||3 p.m. BST||Sunderland (A)|
|Nov. 1.||3 p.m. GMT||Burnley (H)|
|Nov. 8.||3 p.m. GMT||Swansea City (A)|
|Nov. 22.||3 p.m. GMT||Manchester United (H)|
|Nov. 29.||3 p.m. GMT||West Bromwich Albion (A)|
|Dec. 2.||7.45 p.m. GMT||Southampton (H)|
|Dec. 6.||3 p.m. GMT||Stoke City (A)|
|Dec. 13.||3 p.m. GMT||Newcastle United (H)|
|Dec. 20.||3 p.m. GMT||Liverpool (A)|
|Dec. 26.||3 p.m. GMT||Queens Park Rangers (H)|
|Dec. 28.||3 p.m. GMT||West Ham United (A)|
|Jan. 1.||3 p.m. GMT||Southampton (A)|
|Jan. 10.||3 p.m. GMT||Stoke City (H)|
|Jan. 17.||3 p.m. GMT||Manchester City (A)|
|Jan. 31.||3 p.m. GMT||Aston Villa (H)|
|Feb. 7.||3 p.m. GMT||Tottenham Hotspur (A)|
|Feb. 10.||7.45 p.m. GMT||Leicester (H)|
|Feb. 21.||3 p.m. GMT||Crystal Palace (A)|
|Feb. 28.||3 p.m. GMT||Everton (H)|
|Mar. 3.||7.45 p.m. GMT||Queens Park Rangers (A)|
|Mar. 14.||3 p.m. GMT||West Ham United (H)|
|Mar. 21.||3 p.m. GMT||Newcastle United (A)|
|Apr. 4.||3 p.m. BST||Liverpool (H)|
|Apr. 11.||3 p.m. BST||Burnley (A)|
|Apr. 18.||3 p.m. BST||Sunderland (H)|
|Apr. 25.||3 p.m. BST||Chelsea (H)|
|May 2.||3 p.m. BST||Hull City (A)|
|May 9.||3 p.m. BST||Swansea City (H)|
|May 16.||3 p.m. BST||Manchester United (A)|
|May 24.||3 p.m. BST||West Bromwich Albion (H)|
Arsenal fans will be paying particular attention to the away fixtures against Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton this season. Why? Because in those fixtures last year, they lost by a combined total of 20-4.
If they are going to win the Premier League, they can't struggle on the road like that against the top teams. Those games not only cost 12 points, but they also hurt them in the goal difference column.
Those aren't the only matches of intrigue on the schedule, however. After losing last season's opener, 3-1, against Aston Villa, the Gunners will be trying to avoid starting slowly in their first match this year. While they recovered quite nicely from the Aston Villa loss, starting out strongly and positively in 2014-15 will be key.
So too will be replicating last year's double (a triple if you count the FA Cup triumph) over bitter rivals Tottenham. It's never a bad season for the Gunners if Arsenal take all six points from their North London rivals and last year was no exception.
The Manchester United game also looms large, namely because it's hard to imagine the Red Devils being as poor as they were in 2013-14. The Premier League could be even stronger than it was last year, a season marked by parity, with as many as seven teams throwing their hat into the title race. Surely, a revitalised United side will be one of them next term.
Arsenal must maintain their consistency against the lower-level teams, however, something they did last season. The Gunners rarely play down to the level of inferior opponents, even if they also don't always play up to the level of the league's top teams.
Keeping themselves in the running for a title will require some additions this summer, no doubt, as Stan Collymore of the Mirror wrote:
Arsene Wenger has finally penned that new three-year deal and, with the bigwigs at the Emirates high on FA Cup success, we can surely expect him to flash the cash if Arsenal are to mount a serious title push.
Will that be next season? Not by my reckoning. Wenger’s current team look about three years away from being able to challenge for top spot.
But some big, clever signings could change that—so I hope the Frenchman surprises us all by taking the market by storm.
The team absolutely needs another forward, as Olivier Giroud never had a viable deputy. The Gunners could probably use an upgrade at the position and a true match-winner at the No. 9, though the Frenchman played well for the club last year.
Right-back is another obvious need, as Carl Jenkinson has shown potential but surely needs some competition on the right. The Gunners will likely seek out an upgrade and a player who can consistently perform for them like Sagna did.
A true bulldog in the midfield to occupy the holding role and win the ball back is equally important. For all of Arsenal's many skilled and creative midfielders, they've lacked a physical presence in the center of the pitch for some time. Mikel Arteta has done his best in the role, but it comes unnatural to him and doesn't fit his skill set.
An FA Cup victory and another top-four finish—and months spent atop the league table—will give this team a lot of confidence. Getting Walcott back healthy, keeping the oft-injured Wilshere and Ramsey healthy and adding to the ranks this summer will make them tough to beat.
Manchester City will be tough to knock off the top of the table, but Arsenal are one of a handful of teams that have a legitimate shot of pulling off the feat.