It has been just over a month since Arsenal finally ended their nine year trophy drought. Winning the FA Cup and once again finishing in the top four in the Premier League, hence securing a place in next season’s Champions League, should automatically qualify as a successful campaign.
However, things could have been so much different. Arsenal had led the Premier League for a total of 128 out of 268 days – that is for just under half the campaign. This prompted the Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger, to joke that Arsenal had won ‘the stamina league’.
Arsenal were top of the league at Christmas – usually a good sign that they would go on and win it. They achieved this with effectively one performing, recognised striker – Olivier Giroud. Of course the midfield chipped in as usual with valuable contributions, most notably from Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla. However, it was clear that Giroud could not sustain the high performance levels required of a lone striker for the entire season, and the January transfer window could not have come at a better time.
This is where I believe Arsenal lost ground, and eventually the title. When the team was crying out for another striker, Wenger decided to bring in Kim Kallstrom, another midfielder. Yes Kallstrom is extremely gifted and experienced, but I think he was more of a sympathy signing just to give the Arsenal fans a new face. It could have been much worse though.
As early as the first game of the season when Arsenal were beaten 3-1 by Aston Villa in their own back yard, they were on the wrong end of some proper drubbings, such as 6-0 at Chelsea, 5-1 at Liverpool and 6-3 at Manchester City. Additionally, Everton had been closing in on fourth place but just fell short at the final hurdle. Even in the FA Cup final versus Hull City, Arsenal were two goals down within eight minutes and could easily have been three goals down within ten minutes. But after all these obstacles, the team continuously showed great spirit and attitude to come back and achieve all that they did.
With Wenger signing a new three year deal, I would like to think that this is just the start of a successful period for the Gunners. With a core squad of talented home-grown players, there is definitely a good base to build on. However, the squad does need additions and replacements, and Arsenal is already falling behind to its rivals again. Chelsea has already made a statement of intent by signing the ex-Arsenal captain and talisman Francesc Fabregas, as well as effectively sealing a deal for Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa.
A new right-back and goalkeeping cover need to be brought in to replace the departing Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski. It also seems that the club captain, Thomas Vermaelen, is preparing to exit the Emirates Stadium, especially since he only has one more year left on his current contract and has fallen behind in the pecking order to the formidable partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. If Vermaelen were to leave, a new centre-back would need to be drafted in to provide cover and a new captain would need to be appointed.
In my opinion, the most important addition is a new striker. Arsenal need someone who can compete with Giroud, as well as play alongside him when required. I understand that doing business during the World Cup is quite difficult, however I do hope that targets are being looked at and bids are being prepared so as to avoid last minute panic buys at extortionate prices.
The 2013/2014 campaign was another roller coaster ride for everyone associated with Arsenal, only that this time it ended on a high. The club has now remembered how it feels to win a trophy. Hopefully that feeling will linger and give the club even more desire and hunger to challenge on all fronts next season.
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