The footballing news last weekend England entirely revolved around Chelsea’s game against Crystal Palace, Mourinho’s return to success with the club, and securing his third Premier League trophy. They probably won’t even mention ‘Boring Boring Chelsea’. Much. But at Arsenal, things will be very different.
They were the only team capable of theoretically winning the league with five games left to play before Sunday – who would have seen that back in October, or even February? Arsene Wenger’s team will be ignoring the West London celebrations and they still have a lot of work to do this season.
After winning the FA Cup last year – their first trophy in nine years – and finishing fourth, significant and consistent improvement, as well as squad development, could see them finish in (a distant) second and still with the FA Cup final to be played on 30th May.
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As the ‘Wenger Out’ cries have seemingly evaporated in the second half of this season, everything seems pretty stable at the Emirates Stadium. However, although Wenger could be achieving an impressive level of success, he is also creating a level of expectation which will be even harder to replicate without getting really competitive in terms of winning the Premier League or Champions League, in the next two years.
And while the squad has seen more shake-up than a cocktail bar in a bungee cage, we still haven’t seen the cast-iron first team sheet. While players like Coquelin and Bellerin have stepped up beyond expectations, it is unlikely they would not be unseated if the squad was to be strengthened in the summer.
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And as eternal protagonist and sometime pundit Thierry Henry called for Wenger to buy in the usual positions last week, the north London club are equally likely to see some departures this summer.
Santi Cazorla, one of the main players this year, is coming to the end of his contract and likely to seek a move this summer. Man City apparently want the returning glass-man Jack Wilshere for £30 million.
Dealmaker Theo Walcott could be on the way out if a new contract is not agreed while 31-year-old Mathieu Flamini is likely not to get an extension to his. It is no coincidence that Mesut Ozil started playing well back in the Champions League game against Monaco in February – the international auction house to catch a European manager’s eye. Old guards Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky are near their likely exits, as well as somebody apparently called Diaby.
And while there will be fanciful rumours of purchasing players like Iker Casillas and Paul Pogba, a player exodus seems much more likely, and it is hard to imagine Wenger delivering a big trophy in the next two years without the squad getting stronger than this season.
Following the comprehensive victory against Hull early this week, with Wilshere returning in what looks like hungry form, and an impressive display right across the midfield, it has raised even more questions about the future of some Gunners stars.
Subsequently, this week it is expected that Wenger will start the process by commencing discussions with Flamini and Rosicky, with the press indicating they might be facing free transfers out of the club.
Meanwhile Wenger also indicated after the Hull game that he would be unlikely to be bringing in many new faces this summer, making notable exceptions for world-class players. He also hinted that Arsenal would be sufficiently bolstered with returning loan players in the summer, including the possibility of Lukas Podolski making a surprise return from Inter Milan.
Despite the wave they are riding now, Wenger will probably be leaving Arsenal a couple of years, so how he strengthens and maintains the squad during this summer and the next will dictate whether he ends his time on an all-time high, or just consistently somewhere in the top four.
Arsenal fans: where do you think Arsene Wenger needs to strengthen this summer? Let us know below!