Arsene Wenger believes his Arsenal side have shown their potential for a Premier League title challenge in the second half of the season after conceding the initiative to Chelsea in the opening months.
The Gunners' first league defeat of the campaign was to Chelsea in October, but they had already lost ground to the Blues by drawing four of their first six games. A late-season rally - nine wins in a 10-match unbeaten streak - has not been enough for them to catch Chelsea, but Arsenal will still aim to extend that run against Swansea City tonight.
"There are many turning points," Wenger said. "One of them was that we had some players back and defensively we were much stronger in the second part of the season than the first part. We still have room for improvement there. Maybe we have more stability and more balance in the team.
"We were not consistent enough. After eight games we were 11 points behind Chelsea. If we win our game in hand (against Sunderland on May 20) we are 10 points behind Chelsea. That means in the first eight games we lost our championship and that's what we have to address next season and start strong.
"We feel we have made progress in our consistency, our quality and our stability. That is what we want to continue and I believe it is important to finish as close as possible to Chelsea and think we are ready to challenge next season."
Swansea manager Garry Monk also sees Arsenal as likely challengers for the title next year. He said: "I expect they'll be a little bit disappointed they didn't start the season the way they're finishing it. Maybe they could have been a little bit closer to Chelsea. But they've had a fantastic season. There's a talented squad there, with real depth as well, especially the attacking options they have. People will talk about aspects of their play and what they need to improve but the squad Arsène is building is going to be a force in the next couple of years."
Arsenal need to win to keep the pressure on Manchester City in the race for second but Swansea head to north London in confident mood. Back-to-back wins over Newcastle and Stoke have consolidated eighth place and secured a club Premier League record of 53 points.
"You always expect them to be strong and their home record has been exceptional," Monk said. "It's an arena which can be extremely tough and we expect that, but it's also one where we've done well in the past.
"I want my players to go to these type of arenas and play these sort of teams. We've proven this season we can handle those situations and let's hope we can do it again."
Arsenal v Swansea City,
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