Signings, a change of mentality and Wilshere’s fitness - what Arsenal must get right this summer
After yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace all but confirmed the title is out of Arsenal’s reach for another season, we take a look at what the club must get right this summer if they are to challenge next season.
Where else could we possibly start with Arsenal? The never ending obsession the club’s supporters have with buying players means this is the area Arsene Wenger will be under the most scrutiny in the coming months.
Reports suggests Arsenal are close to signing Borussia Monchengladbach central midfielder Granit Xhaka for around £35m, but there’s also a need to strengthen in central defence and up front.
Gabriel has failed to convince since taking over from Per Mertesacker at centre-back, while Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott have comprehensively failed to make the No 9 position their own. Danny Welbeck has impressed after missing the first half of the season with injury, but the need for an upgrade up top is as patently obvious as it’s been since, well each of the last four summers.
In terms of outgoings, the likes of Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini will be allowed to leave, while Arsenal will listen to offers for Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Some of the club’s followers would also like to see Walcott moved on, but finding a club who would match his Arsenal wages will be difficult.
Improving their injury record
The second of the issues that never seems to go away at the Emirates, Arsenal must do something to address their dreadful record with injuries over the past few years.
Fitness guru Shad Forsythe was hired in 2014, but the problems have continued, and Arsenal look no closer to finding a solution as they were when he came in.
Santi Cazorla, Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez have all missed large chunks of the season through injury, and Arsenal continue to be near the top of the table for days missed through injury per season.
One of the more obvious solutions seems to be Wenger not overburdening his players when they are showing signs of fatigue.
The muscular injury Alexis suffered against Norwich in November was painfully predictable at a time when the Chilean had been playing every game, and Wenger had even acknowledged he needed a rest.
Getting the best out of Jack Wilshere
Wilshere is 24, and yet remains as much of a frustration for Arsenal as ever. He is yet to play this season and earlier this month made the headlines yet again for an off the pitch misdemeanour.
The England midfielder encapsulates the sense of wasted potential and opportunities at Arsenal over the past few years, and time is running out for Wilshere to maximise his undoubted talent.
A full and focused pre-season would make an enormous difference to Wilshere's prospects.
Finding internal solutions
Over the last few seasons, Wenger has reduced the need for big signings by promoting players already at the club, such as Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin, and most recently Alex Iwobi.
Iwobi looks to be a fantastic prospect, and he must be nurtured properly over the coming months, while the likes of Gedion Zelalem and Jeff Reine-Adelaide are highly rated at the club.
Iwobi in particular, as a home-grown player, could have a big role in getting the fans back on side - many of whom are disenchanted with the players in the team and want someone more identifiable to idolise.
The way Harry Kane at Tottenham or Marcus Rashford at United have captured the supporters' imagination shows the impact that home-grown talent can have.
It's probably a waste of column inches (or the digital equivalent) to suggest that Arsenal should think carefully about who their manager is for next season, so assuming it is Wenger in charge, someone at the club surely needs to deliver some home truths to the increasingly beleaguered manager.
Wenger only has one year left on his current contract, and his mentality must change if next season is not to go the same way as this one, and most of the previous 12.