This season for me, has served as an appropriate test run for the team. It has given this side a proper understanding of what it takes to go all the way in a highly competitive league. They mounted a sustained title challenge until March, for the first time in three years. Progress has absolutely been made.
The last time we had a crack at the title, the likes of Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud weren’t part of the squad. It’s their first taste of being in a Premier League title mix, and I’ve got no doubt in me that they’ll relish the chance to correct the errors they and the rest of the team made during the course of the current season.
Experience and belief are intertwined and while the team have gained a valuable knowledge of the necessary ingredients needed to successfully execute a title bid, the belief stemmed from having an undivided dressing room stands them in good stead for the coming seasons.
On the verge of something special.
Big names tied down
Unlike previous seasons where the big names departed after a failed title bid, this side has its core still intact and properly focused on next season. After falling short of the title In 2007/2008, we saw players like Gilberto, Mathieu Flamini and Alex Hleb. In like manner, Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri moved on to “greener pastures” after being unable to end Arsenal’s trophy drought in 2010/2011.
Now, rather than expecting another group of key figures to demand a move away from the club after another unsuccessful title challenge, we’ve seen the trio of Per, Aaron and Santi already put pen to paper this year. We now need to show the same reward to Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna. The importance of this quintuplet to our team cannot be over-emphasised, not least because of the impact they all made in the 2-0 win over Liverpool earlier in the season; a game I have chosen as our best, this season. Along with Kieran Gibbs, Wojciech Szczesny, Theo Walcott and Ozil, we have nine eloquent players that gives this side the level of cohesion it needs to evolve into prevalent force in Europe.
Ramsey and Cazorla have been recognised as indispensable players.
In the past, we’ve been criticised for not having the required numbers to last the entire duration of the campaign. This season however, I can’t help but posit that we’ve got an abundance of depth players in the team. What we’ve fallen short of is the number of key players at our disposal. While these key figures need to be complemented with players of similar quality, our squad players also need to be shown a common sense of belonging, for the purpose of getting the best out of them.
We’ve occasionally seen how vital the likes of Thomas Vermaelen, Flamini, Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski and even Giroud have been coming off the bench. We need to ensure it stays that way, heading into the new season. That could only be the case if we persuade these “spares” to remain with us in 2014/2015. I mean, how lucky would we be to find another centre-back who can provide solid cover at left-back, or a defensive midfielder who provides us with a viable option in both full-back positions. We also won’t make things easy for ourselves if we begin to search for yet another clinical forward whose first touch yields into productivity. In that regard it’s fair to say the club would do well to show our depth players just how central they remain to our plans, going forward.
The need to “attack” our priorities
Despite having a dynamic midfield, we’ve lacked genuine quality options in the attacking third. Add to that the fact Podolski and Walcott have both suffered major injuries during the course of the season. This meant we had to bet top dollar on Giroud to carry us all the way.
We all know how that panned out and such little plethora of options shouldn’t repeat itself going forward. Perhaps that’s why the club have recently been linked with a couple of young and more importantly, quick forwards, to address the pedestrian pace of our attack in 2014. It also shows that Arsene and his management team appear to have recognized how unhealthy it is relying on Walcott for genuine pace and penetration.
However, aside looking forward to new signings, we also must not forget about the lad we’ve got in the Greek Super League, who’ll add more depth and quality to our attack. Joel Campbell was signed in 2011 but has been rightly loaned out to three different clubs since then. The youngster’s natural dribbling ability is what I’m most excited about, considering how predictable we’ve often looked when trying to break down the opposition defence. His instinct is also something we could do with, with the Costa Rica international capable of letting fly (and hitting the target) from anywhere in the attacking third. Spine-tingling for those who have been crying out for “golazos” from our forwards.
The 21-year old also now looks to have learnt a lot, with his work rate a visible progress in his development. Considering he’s mainly operated from a wide position this season for Olympiacos, his return of nine goals and 12 assists in 36 appearances looks respectable. It’s therefore safe to say that his inclusion to the compact squad we have will significantly add more depth and dynamism to the group.
The team could do with Joel Campbell’s natural dribbling ability.
A point to prove in the big games
We’ve done extremely well against the lesser teams this season but having collected only five points from a possible 18 from the top three, shipping in 18 in the process, it’s time to stand up and be counted in the big games. We can’t achieve success in these games with another chopping and changing process this summer. Consequently, what we need do is to ensure our big game players are always available and psyched up for these encounters, while also making sure our squad players provide the needed cover on the bench. That way, we would avoid the possibility of losing these games even before they begin.
Arsenal need to have a proper reassessment on the big games.
Having undergone a massive clear-out last summer most of the players at our disposal deserve to remain with this promising side that has weathered the storm in the last couple of seasons. Aside the Danish albatross that is Nicklas Bendtner and our Polish cup hero, Lukasz Fabianski, the rest of this team look odds on to stay together as an adherent group, providing a concrete base to build on, heading into 2014/2015. Arsene’s current side is still a few miles away from running its course and they need to carry on building an unshakable cohesion that’s necessary to achieve the befitting rewards they deserve, going forward. To sum it up, there’s no reason to sell this time.