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Looking Forward To Next Season

It's Thursday 3rd April 2014. We are nine days from Arsenal's third ever trip to the New Wembley, and six games from the end of another hugely enjoyable (in the most part) season. Arsenal fans have been able to enjoy a marvellous FA Cup run - vanquishing the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton without ever having to leave the Emirates whilst witnessing the awe-inspiring revival of Aaron Ramsey and a treble over the sh*t from down the road. An end to Arsenal's barren trophy run surely looms with Arsenal odds on favourites now to win football's oldest cup competition and having managed to get through the nightmare run of games without a total capitulation it looks now as if Arsenal will be qualifying for the Champions league for the 17th season in a row. Much to smile about then. Except, it could’ve and perhaps should’ve been so different…

Three months ago the January transfer window opened with Arsenal top of the league. On the same day a late Nicklas Bendtner winner against Cardiff seemed to provide hope that things might just fall for us this year, yet transfer inactivity has been harshly punished with the slow and tiring Olivier Giroud falling out of form leaving Arsenal with little up front. Furthermore, long term injuries to Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott (both of whom Wenger had knowledge of before the window shut) were not deemed relevant by the manager and the eventual and sole piece of business that was done came in the form of Kim Källstrom - a loanee who was injured for the first six weeks of his spell here. Bizarre considering that was exactly the timescale in which all of Arsenal’s toughest fixtures fell. How different could it have been if, learning of the Ramsey and Walcott injuries, Wenger had recruited a world class striker (Diego Costa springs to mind) and a solid holding midfielder. Indeed, without Ramsey or Wilshere alongside him, Arteta’s lack of pace has been brutally exposed in the big games against Chelsea and Liverpool.

Giroud - Olivier looks tired

That said, in retrospect this may still be a successful season for Arsenal. An end to the trophy drought - especially give our current predicament - is non-negotiable. If it does indeed materialise perhaps some perspective might be of help. Had Arsenal never quite got to the top of the league - perhaps lingering in second place throughout the run of form between September and December then the pain of seeing us fall out of the running would be considerably less, I find myself agreeing with a proposal I read on Twitter the other day that perhaps a challenge from behind would've been preferable, especially given the nature of our fanbase. So, with the title out of the equation but the FA Cup now there to be lost it is perhaps time to begin thinking about next season. The need for effective transfer activity is greater than ever. With Liverpool sure to strengthen - the club is unlikely to allow themselves to drop out of the top four again given how long it has taken them to get back and City and Chelsea predictably set to spend in excess of £50 million without really breaking a sweat, Arsene must sign players quickly and be willing to spend money or risk being uncompetitive once again.

The first priority has to be signing a striker. Giroud has proven this season to even the most optimistic fan that he neither has the pace, nor the stamina, nor the ability to lead the line on his own in a 50 game season. He’s just not at that level. To be honest, putting that burden on him when even the likes of Suarez, Agüero et al have always had support and breaks when needed is absolutely unfair. There are plenty of players out there (Benzema, Mandzukiç, Costa, Benteke) who could do the job at a relatively reasonable price and would offer Giroud a partner and some much needed respite. I am not saying that we need to replace Giroud and ship him off back to from whence he came, but another season with him and him alone as an experienced, top quality striker will simply not do. Furthermore, the need to act early in the window is huge. With competition for these calibre of players likely to be rife leaving our business to the final day, for the third consecutive window, is not an option. How can we hope to compete financially and in general if in transfer windows we are continually picking up sloppy leftovers on the final day at an inflated price. Özil was a one off accommodated by the completion of the Bale transfer - that kind of deal in the final hours will not happen again for us.

Diego Costa

Other areas need strengthening as well, a new right back may be necessary if Bac continues to stall over a new contract, Coleman would do and there are plenty of other players abroad who could turn out as solid as he has for us over these past eight years but once again, acting early to ensure this does not become a lingering problem going into the first game of the season is vital.

People may disagree now on where the next priority is. Many say a goalkeeper is needed - with Woj’s mad moments too frequent and too costly for him to be title winning material - but I disagree, instead noticing the reduced frequency of these errors and how solid he was when Arsenal were on their dizzying run between September and December. The same applies to Kieran Gibbs and the left back position, but he too has been a part of the defence which earlier this year was dubbed as fit to fill the boots of the invincibles. Granted, the games against Liverpool, City and Chelsea have perhaps calmed those claims but incidentally Gibbs was playing for 15 minutes in the total of those three games - and against Bayern it wasn’t until Gibbs went off that Robben really came into the game. I am happy to give him another season to develop into a world class defender.

Personally, I think the time has come to replace Arteta. He is a quality player and has done a great service to us considering that he was - in all honesty - a panic buy but his lack of pace has cost us one time too many and one only needs to look at the difference it makes having Mathieu Flamini in the side in terms of increased stability. Now imagine instead of Flamini having a young, powerful player in that role capable of attacking as well... Paul Pogba?

Regardless of who you think is a suitable replacement or where replacements are needed, spending early and responsibly - but without needles quibbles over £5 million or so is the only way for me than Wenger can justify his label as the man to take Arsenal forward from the "period of transition". I (unlike some) fully accept his arguments that budgets have been tight and top four has been the priority over the last 9 years. But now we must push on. The so called Wenger 'renaissance' may start this year if we win the FA cup and move on next season with sufficient recruitment, but without good, early planning even the most adamant of Wengerites may have to reevaluate their stance.

Tell us what you think! If you agree, or have a different view, please leave a comment in the comments section or why not write a response or your own article on YouWrite?

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Tags: Arteta, Transfers, Diego Costa, Pogba, Coleman

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