The signing of Mezut Ozil last summer led many Arsenal fans to believe that the club could once again compete at the very highest level of the game.

It was supposed to signal a change in a transfer policy adopted by the club and an adjustment in Arsene Wenger's philosophy when it comes to the type of signings required to push the club forward.

Ozil was undoubtedly a great start. His early season form was encouraging even if his season as a whole hasn't been quite as scintillating as many fans hoped and expected. More important was the belief that the signing appeared to give to the other members of the squad.

Suddenly there was a belief that if Ozil was attracted to the club then perhaps they could indeed bring former glories back to North London. You need to look no further than Aaron Ramsey's form over the first six months of the season to justify this notion.

However, it became abundantly clear in January that without additions to the squad - particularly in the forward areas - that Arsenal would struggle to keep up the fight for the league and progress in the Champions League.

Rather than spend the sort of money it takes to get a top striker in to boost the squad as Wenger did with Ozil, an injured Kim Kallstrom was the sole January signing. 

This - combined with a spate of injuries to key players at key times - has seen Arsenal fall away in the challenge for the league and in serious danger of being leapfrogged for that final Champions League place by the ever improving Everton team led by Roberto Martinez.

If Arsenal do mange to hold on to fourth as they have done so successfully for so many seasons, they will have to make crucial signings in the summer if they are to remain as one of the established top four in years to come. The squad needs freshening and the following five names would surely see Arsenal back challenging for major honours:

1: Mario Mandzukic

With the impending arrival of Robert Lewandowski at the Allianz Arena, Mandzukic will find himself pushed down the pecking order and may struggle to start many games if he remains with the German giants.

The Croatian certainly knows where the back of the net is, averaging more than one goal per two games during his time at Bayern. Arsenal are in desperate need of a frontman that could provide such a return but would face strong competition for his signature from other top European clubs.

With Niklas Bendnter finally on his way out of the club when his contract expires, Yaya Sanogo still needing time to develop and Olivier Giroud struggling to establish himself as world-class, Arsenal will probably need more than one new striker. Mandzukic would be an excellent start.

2: Mario Balotelli

Love him or hate him, it's hard to argue with the raw talent that the enigma that is Balotelli possesses - pace, skill, power and aggression with a great eye for goal. 

If he can be controlled by Wenger (and that's a big if), Balotelli could be the 20 goal-a-season man that Arsenal desperately require. With AC Milan missing out on Champions League football next year it would be no surprise if Super Mario was on the look out for a new club and a new challenge.

Combine this with the fact that next year sees Puma take over the Arsenal kit sponsorship and Balotelli being the company's pin up boy this could be a match made in heaven for all involved.

3: Lars Bender

While there have been concerns over his form in recent times, Bender would provide much-needed cover for the back four that has all too often gone missing this season. While Mathieu Flamini has impressed since his return to the Emirates, he has often had to fight too many fires on his own and spent too much time marshalling others rather than focusing on his own work.

Add this to the fact that Mikel Arteta doesn't seem to have the legs to get up and down the pitch like he used to further highlights the need for added quality in the middle of the park. The German contingent already present at Arsenal could convince Bender to turn down the inevitable offers he will receive from other clubs in the summer and should help him settle into the club and the Arsenal midfield quickly.

4: Juan Manuel Iturbe

One of the hottest talents in world football, there will be plenty of competition for the young Argentine winger. But Arsenal should splash the cash and make sure that Iturbe decides to play his football at Ashburton Grove next season.

One of the major criticisms levelled at Arsenal in recent weeks has been their inability to get behind the back four of the opposition with a lack of pace running beyond Giroud. Of course it doesn't help that the pace of Theo Walcott has been taken away from the team due to injury but even when he returns to the squad next season, Iturbe could offer added pace and skill..

Whether from a starting position or an option from the bench, he would certainly add another dimension to the attack.

5: Lukasz Piszczek

The longer Bacary Sagna stalls on agreeing a new contract with the club, the more it seems inevitable that Wenger will need to find a replacement for one of his truly world-class players.

While Carl Jenkison has deputised well at times, he is still far from ready to be considered the starting right-back. Piszczek, however, has proved himself to be one of the top right-backs in the world over the last couple of seasons and his potential signing would soften the blow of losing one of Arsenal's most consistent performers over the last few years.

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#Lukasz Piszczek
#Football
#Mario Balotelli
#Arsenal