A tumultuous season marred by injury and failure is nothing new to Arsenal fans, though to be this close to silverware in years and watch it painfully slip out of our grasp is just a little extra salt to our many wounds.
With Wenger keen to streamline the squad in the summer, dispensing with the half measures and aiming to bring in the quality signings, there's been a torrent of articles speculating who we will sign next. This article may be no different, but I don't think superstar signings are what we are missing.
I believe our squad needs quality and versatility—we've got plenty of players who can play on different flanks, but they often lack the quality when called up. With a smaller squad, we're going to need players who can play in different areas without losing the quality.
In defence just about every team in the top half has a right back who can slot in centre if needed, we've only got Song, who would be missed in the middle. Even then, none of our side backs can shift into the middle and Vermaelen can play left, though we wouldn't need him to.
In the middle there are the central midfielders who can rotate around just fine, some more attacking than others and some more defensive. We're pretty fine there, though a more defensive midfielder would be more welcome.
On the wings, more or less all the wingers can play on either flank but none can play up front. Up front, all our strikers could feasibly drop off to the right wing, but with Van Persie being injury prone and Bendtner rumoured to leave, there is room for a striker/winger who could fill in when needed.
So who could we bring in and where?
Young, French, Strong, Tall, Quick, Technical, Versatile? He ticks nearly all of Wenger's boxes, only price eludes him. Added, he's also a natural leader and has plenty of potential.
A centre back who's looking to be too good for Ligue 1, he can slot in at left back. Tipped for big things, for club and country, he wouldn't need a lot of time to adjust. He could very well be our Luiz. The thought of having another Sagna in defence wouldn't be a bad idea after an in-and-out season for Clichy. Though it's not impossible for him to shift into right back either and could be a good long term replacement for Sagna and a more immediate replacement for Eboue.
With Sakho, you have two options. You can either play him at left back or centre back. He could easily slot into left back replacing Clichy and then shifting into the middle if injuries pile up or if Wenger wants Gibbs to have a run out. He wouldn't ruin the balance of the four centre backs Wenger wants and would still give everyone the playing time they need.
Looking at his playing time over the last few seasons, he looks like he has missed a bit of time through injury but nothing on the scale of our own. He'll make 30 appearances a season easily and with Arsenal's annual heavy load of fixtures. Being French, he'll fit right in and shouldn't have too much adjustment issues or at least none on the scale of Koscielny or Squillaci.
Imagine Sakho, Djourou, Vermaelen and Sagna in defence in front of Szczesny and we'd have one of the best defences in Europe. It could also be even better, if he does prove to be a good signing, we could even think of occasionally moving Vermaelen or Djourou into defensive midfield. Djourou likes to come forward and take out threats early and can pass well, Vermaelen also has a penchant for attacking runs and doesn't have a bad finish.
He's led Paris Saint Germain a few times and looks to be a strong presence in the team, not only physically. He may not come cheap with a £18million fee reported though with interest from AC and a few other teams, it could break the £20million barrier, though a worthy investment nonetheless. Then again a possible £10-15 million for Clichy would soften that blow.
Young, Tall, Strong, Attacking, Versatile? Like Sakho, has all the same qualities but is a bit more attacking, much in the mould of his Belgium compatriot, Thomas Vermaelen.
He can play virtually anywhere across the back four and as a bonus, a defensive midfielder as well. While the Eredivisie isn't known for bringing out the best defenders, he'll be able to link up with former Ajax partner, Vermaelen and like a lot of Dutch-based players, his English should be fine and being Belgian, not impossible for him to speak a little French either as well as Dutch for Robin.
Despite it being the Eredivisie and according to Wikipedia, he's currently on five goals this season in all competitions, no doubt a threat from set pieces and he's on a goal every 10 games, which isn't bad for a defender. He's also played quiet a few games in Europe and against some big teams with Ajax.
Like Sakho, he could come in as a direct replacement for Clichy and a bonus of being left footed, he could also replace Eboue at right back reserve. The balance of the centre backs would be left untouched as he would come in as rotation or back up.
He could also feature as a defensive midfielder if Song is injured and can equally be a good partner in midfield using his passing, strength and height as an advantage. He can fill in five different positions and he's doesn't seem injury prone with over 35 appearances a season for the last four years, with a mouth watering best of 49 games last season, we could definitely use someone like him.
Ajax want at least £15 million for him, which wouldn't be so bad if we sold Clichy or Eboue, but Ajax are a pretty good team, so the idea of including Rosicky, Mannone, Squillaci or Eboue as part of the deal would be another bonus.
Another bonus, is that he is aiming to play football at the highest level after his time with Ajax, who are also in some financial worry. Then again, nothing says 'buy me now' than him publicly saying he wants to join Arsenal, which he did.
Young, Pacey, Tricky, Strong, Composed, Versatile? The tricky Chilean has been gathering the attention of Europe's biggest teams and it's not hard to see why. Suarez would've been perfect, if he hadn't already signed for Liverpool.
Predominantly a winger, who can also play stiker, he plays very much like Cristiano Ronaldo with just as many stepovers and fakes. He may be only 5'6'', but he is pretty deadly up front helping himself to 12 goals, including four in a single match, not unlike our own sometimes mercurial playmaker Andrei Arshavin.
In fact, the pair share many similarities and Sanchez has the edge in that he is much younger and plays like Arshavin at his best. There is also a level of trickery and composure with Sanchez in front of goal. He likes the flashy goals and likes to use his pace to open up shooting opportunities. He's also pretty composed under close quarters and has the technique to bring the ball down and go for a cheeky shot.
His size is an issue and he won't win much in the air but plays like a pacey Tevez, he can hold off bigger players if he needs to and certainly has the legs to keep himself out of reach. He's got quite a few tricks up his sleeve and likes to take on a few players, which would be a nice change to the squad.
While he'd act as a winger, but he can play up front, though unlikely. Twelve goals this season isn't bad. He prefers to run at players and space rather than to be static but a option up front nonetheless if Van Persie and Chamakh ever found themselves needing to be replaced.
He'd be a good replacement for Arshavin, Nasrim Bentder or Rosicky, finding a home on the wings and cutting in. Though still only 5'6'', Hernandez is taller at a 5'9'' and has been impressive for United. He'd be deadly on the counter and would be a nice change from passing and allowing the opposition to regroup.
With the level of interest in him, his price tag would be around £20-25 million at a minimum and could eventually reach £30 million if a bidding war erupts. He is still a raw talent, but has all the qualities to make it big. Wenger would normally refrain from entering a potential bidding war but a quick early and big bid would seal the deal before anyone knew any better.
Rosicky would obviously be offloaded and Arshavin is at the twilight of his career, both could be used as trading chips, if not Denilson, Diaby, Squillaci, Almunia or Bendtner.
Young, Pacey, Tall, Strong, Deadly, Versatile? Thomas Muller is one of the best young strikers in the world and he may be the only person on the list who suffers from being too versatile. Being able to drop to the wings has it's benefit's as Ribery and Robben have been injured for long periods this season and also has to overcome a in form Mario Gomez to play up front.
He has the quality to play against world class opposition, helping Bayern reaching the Champion's league final last season and again denied this season by the same Inter side. On the international scene, he was one of Germany's stars as he scored 5 goals and provided 3 assists in the World Cup, finishing with the Golden Boot in his debut tournament.
Whereas someone like Sanchez could only play a supporting striker role up front, the 6'1 hitman has all the quality to play anywhere across the front 3 being able to be a threat in the air, on the ground and his good passing and vision means he'd be equally effective on the wings.
His strength and pace on the wings would provide another dimension to our attacking game and his link up play would mean he would fit in fine. He also possesses a good cross so he could play on the left wing to swing in crosses or on the right to cut in and shoot.
An impressive 9 goals in 27 games means he's a consistent threat and his overall record for Bayern reinforces this with 36 goals in his 98 across all competitions. With room to grow, Bayern would be reluctant to sell him or at least cheaply.
While there's no official price tag on him, £25 million would be a logical starting point considering how Bayern have weathered many storms managing to keep Robben and Ribery by slapping a massive price tag on them. There have been rumours of interest on Bendtner and it could work in Arsenal's favour, though Bayern wouldn't need any of Arsenal's dead weight.
Pacey, Deadly, Experienced, Versatile? He may have just turned 30, but he is still one of Europe's deadliest strikers. Playing at the top level with Barca and Inter, he isn't getting any younger and it's one of the reasons we should bring him in.
He's already on 30 goals this season and would make a excellent partner to Van Persie, another option up front or an impact sub. While starting to lose his trademark pace, he brings experience and composure up front. There's been plenty of times when Arsenal just set up shop around the penalty area and ping passes around until someone sends it out for a goal kick, Eto'o can be that player who would make the little runs or take the shots that lead to goals.
While he probably wouldn't be too happy as a squad player, he would be a valuable asset, on and off the pitch, possibly being our Inzaghi?
He could find a home on the left wing, where he could use his pace and cut in to assist or finish. His ridiculous record is more than goal every other game with 247 goals in 457 matches and 48 assists. Which would work to five goals and a assist every 10 games, give or take. He could also play up front and send Van Persie onto the right wing. Having Eto'o and Walcott together would cause nightmares for any defender and with Henry gone, he'd make a excellent role model for Theo.
He brings in experience in Europe and has been deadly this season with eight goals and five assists and would ease the pressure off Van Persie and may be detrimental to Chamakh, though there's only one way to find out.
With his form, Inter would want a substantial amount, but he's also 30 so anything around £20 million could be enough. Then again Shevchenko and Berbatov haven't exactly proved deadly finishing, age and a big transfer will mean success to match their hefty transfer fees.
However, Inter may be reluctant to sell, they are a big club and we could definitely offload a lot of players to ease the deal. Bendtner, would be top of the trade list, and there could be some interest if Clichy were involved.
Any of these players would be a welcome addition. Though a little pricey, they would benefit the team in the long run. I did have a little trouble trying to think of a possible centre midfielder who could either play up front or on the wing, who also wasn't tied up to a big team, Sneijder and Schweinsteiger for example.
Though we're pretty packed in central midfield and the defensive signings would mean we could use more players in defensive midfield. There is also a distinct lack of creativity in midfield with Nasri becoming increasingly average, Theo being injured and Arshavin showing his best in short bursts.
Wenger will spend in the Summer, if the fans aren't enough of an incentive then the shareholders probably will be. With a few players going out, it should fund some big signings and quality always over quantity. We have a solid base, and it's only the gaps that we need to fill that prevent us from being at the top.
Wenger will have to avoid the cheap deals and go for the players that will make the difference over the course of the season, and hopefully prepare sufficiently for any future injuries.
After all £40 million spent on two of these players would be helped by around £20 million+ from players going the other way, and he'd hardly be breaking the bank as their wages would be covered by the ones leaving. Eto'o could ask for £100,000 which is a lot but if we sell off Almunia, Rosicky and Bentder it would more or less cancel out. Plus, I'd imagine Eto'o shirt sales would be more popular than Almunia, Rosicky and Bentder's combined.