After a decade of waiting, Arsenal finally won a trophy—two, if you include the Community Shield. But as important as that may be for the team psyche and Arsene Wenger’s job security, rumblings of underachievement won’t settle until the Gunners grab a Premier League title.
And this could be the year they pull it off.
The Alexis Sanchez signing emboldened a team already spoiled with confidence after the FA Cup victory.
No matter where the Chilean lines up he’s sure to become a major contributor at Arsenal and the early timing of his signature has given this preseason campaign a much-needed sense of stability, especially considering the fickle nature of the post-World Cup schedule.
And for once, there are no rumors about major players skipping town.
Past departures of Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and others left Arsenal scrambling, which not only opened up major holes in the starting squad but also exposed an unsettling lack of foresight in team management. There was no backup plan and play suffered.
And though I think momentum from trophy wins is generally blown out of proportion, Arsenal have been under such tremendous pressure in recent years that the FA Cup triumph may be an exception. Expectations clearly hampered Arsenal in years past and play may loosen up a bit this year.
But it won’t be easy.
While Wenger has done well to put his team in position to succeed, so have his rivals. Diego Costa and Fabregas join an already dangerous Chelsea team. Louis van Gaal looks poised to rebound Manchester United. And Manchester City may very well repeat as champions.
Here are some measures Arsenal must take to remain in contention.