Arsenal’s 2013-14 FA Cup triumph sparked the end of their nine-year trophy drought and once again cemented the club’s name among England’s elite.
With Arsene Wenger signing a new three-year deal at the Emirates and making his lofty ambitions known, May’s Wembley victory looks like the beginning of some very exciting times for the Gunners.
However, for Arsenal to once again reap the kind of success they enjoyed at the start of the Millennium, they need new recruits in their ranks, starting from the front.
Though French striker Olivier Giroud scored 16 Premier League goals last season, per WhoScored.com, Arsenal fans are still calling for the club to sign a new forward to complete a world-class setup at the Emirates.
Among the rumoured targets for the North Londoners is Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, who was instrumental behind the Spanish giants’ Champions League success last term.
Polo's report states that the Frenchman provided 13 assists for Ronaldo in La Liga last season, adding four more in the Champions League.
Though a natural goalscorer, Benzema said to Marca that setting up others brings him as much joy as finding the back of the net himself: "Having a good game is a mixture of many different things, moving well off the ball, supporting other players, making decisive passes and scoring goals. I may end up scoring a goal, but if I haven't played a key part in other areas then that's not a good game in my book."
With life at the Bernabeu treating Benzema well and Ancelotti valuing his services, it’s unlikely that Wenger will be able to secure his signature for the upcoming campaign.
Speaking with France Football, via Marca, the 26-year-old revealed that he’s never been happier in the Spanish capital: "I think this has been my most complete season. In addition to the titles, from a personal perspective, I feel good because I have managed to put together a long run of games."
With the Benzema transfer seemingly out the window, Wenger will have to turn his attention elsewhere if he’s to bring in a top striker this summer.
However, one avenue for success that former Gunners star Alan Smith is warning the French manager not to take is signing football’s bad boy, Mario Balotelli.
The 23-year-old’s future at AC Milan looks in doubt with transfer speculation adding to his ever-growing list of headlines, but Smith told the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast show he doesn’t think Balotelli will fit in at the Emirates:
Balotelli doesn’t strike me as an Arsene Wenger sort of player. He’s someone who commands the headlines and there’s always something going on with him off the field. He’s a great player on his day but, for me, he doesn’t have enough of them. I just can’t see him at Arsenal. Wenger will be bringing in a striker this summer, hopefully a very good one. There are a few out there at the moment, just look at the likes of Mandzukic. But Balotelli? I don’t think so.
The Italian scored 14 Serie A goals last season, per WhoScored.com, in a disappointing campaign for the San Siro giants and would undoubtedly be a strong signing for any club.
However, with Mario Mandzukic also set to be on the market, Smith believes there’s only one Mario that’s super enough for the Gunners to be targeting.
As Opta Franz revealed, the Croatian’s finishing ability in the air has taken the Bundesliga by storm since the turn of the decade:
24 - No BL player has scored as many headed goals as @MarioMandzukic9 since his BL debut in August 2010. Airstrike.— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) May 20, 2014
With Arsenal’s star-studded midfield more than capable of providing ruthless service for any frontman, Mandzukic would likely thrive alongside the likes of Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere at Arsenal.
Which player would be the better striking option for Arsenal?
His playing style as an instinctive finisher is something that would see him fit in perfectly at the Emirates, while Balotelli’s do-it-yourself approach could ruin the team cohesion.
Elsewhere, at the other end of the pitch, Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina has also been put on Wenger’s wish list, according to Alan Nixon of the Mirror.
With Lukasz Fabianski moving to Swansea City, Ospina would be an ideal replacement for Wojciech Szczesny’s back-up keeper and is reported to be available for around £3.5 million, per Nixon.
A showman as well as a stopper, Ospina has won plaudits for his performances in Ligue 1 with Nice and could be Emirates-bound at the end of the World Cup.
Striking options are Wenger’s priority, though, and with targets set as high as Benzema and Mandzukic, it’s unlikely that the 64-year-old will be disappointing any fans when he finally wrestles the famous red shirt on a highly rated frontman.
The future is undoubtedly bright at Arsenal, and though there were times during 2013-14 whereby Wenger’s job was on the line, if he spends intelligently this summer we’ll be seeing a lot more of his famous fist pumps in the next campaign.