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The areas Arsenal must strengthen to mount a title challenge next season

Thursday 27th April 2017
It has been another season to forget for Arsenal. The Gunners have suffered Premier League and Champions League disappointment yet again, and success over Chelsea in the FA Cup final will merely serve to paper over the cracks. We assess the areas Arsenal must strengthen in order to mount a serious title challenge next season?

Goalkeeper



When Arsenal signed Petr Cech in summer of 2015 from Chelsea for a fee around £10million, it looked like a brilliant piece of business from Arsene Wenger. However, in the two years that have followed, it looks as though Wenger's nemesis and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has outdone him once again, as Cech has underwhelmed during his time at Arsenal. With Cech's abilities declining and with cup goalkeeper David Ospina failing to show consistency, the club must look elsewhere for a firmer pair of hands between the sticks.

Arsenal have been linked with moves for young English goalkeepers in recent months: Jack Butland from Stoke and Sunderland's Jordan Pickford. Although it could be argued neither are quite ready to make the step up to a Champions League club, both Butland and Pickford could prove to be the ideal long-term replacement for Petr Cech.

Alternatively, Arsenal could perhaps find the solution to their goalkeeping problem from within, as out-on-loan shot-stopper Wojciech Szczesny continues to impress for AS Roma. He has benefited profusely from the club's signature of Cech two summers ago. The Poland international was shipped out to Rome that same summer and as a result, he has raised his stock significantly. He appears to have ironed out the flaws that ultimately cost him his place as Arsenal's first-choice goalkeeper, therefore is it now Szczęsny's time to reclaim his throne in North London?

Left wing-back/winger



If Arsenal are to persist with their newly-implemented 3-4-2-1 formation beyond this season then they must improve their current left wing-back options of Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs. Although Monreal and Gibbs are both experienced and competent Premier League full-backs, they don't quite offer the same attacking threat that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin do on the opposite flank.
Swiss left back, Ricardo Rodríguez has repeatedly been linked with Arsenal over the past few years. However, despite his attacking qualities, he has often been criticised for the defensive side of his game, which may encourage Arsenal to look elsewhere.

On the other hand, if – assuming he's still manager – Arsène Wenger reverts back to his trusted 4-2-3-1 formation, Arsenal should still look to sign a wide-man. With the exception of talisman Alexis Sánchez, the Gunners wingers have not produced enough in the past few seasons. Oxlade-Chamberlain has shown some improvement this season despite generally suffering from injuries, Theo Walcott has gone through spells of good goal-scoring form but has again been largely inconsistent, and Alex Iwobi has struggled for form after a promising introduction to the first team in last campaign's second half. Whoever is in charge of the Gunners next season should identify a wide forward capable of matching the numbers that Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have produced during their time at the club.

Striker



Arsenal's striker situation still hasn't been properly addressed ever since Robin van Persie was sold to Manchester United in 2012. Sanchez has admittedly had an excellent season in which he's mostly been deployed as a number 9, however, Arsenal have struggled against teams with an organised defence due to Sanchez's tendency to drop deep, thus leaving the box vacated during attacks. Another attacking option, Danny Welbeck's pace and power have been useful in stretching defences (notably Manchester City's in the FA Cup Semi Final), although he lacks the natural finishing ability of a world-class centre-forward and is another Arsenal player who has been cursed by injuries. Lastly, Olivier Giroud has been a superb ‘plan B' this season. He often comes off the bench to rescue Arsenal. However, Giroud has been largely ineffectual as a starter this campaign, as his physique and aerial prowess has been better served coming off the bench against tired defences that are gradually getting deeper and deeper. Therefore, Arsenal must strengthen by adding a world class number 9 to help take them to the next level. Finding this type of talent on the market, however, is easier said than done.
If they can strengthen these areas then a serious title challenge could be on the horizon. Or will it be another case of ‘same old Arsenal'? In the past, the club has been guilty of not spending and as a result falling behind the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City. However, this season, Arsene Wenger spent around £100million on players and the club once again found themselves out of the Premier League title race, as well as the Champions League, in March. Perhaps more serious change is needed for Arsenal to gain recognition among the elite, or should their supporters count themselves lucky that they're as consistent as they are?
Chris Soloman
21-year-old media student and football fanatic living in Manchester. Lifelong Derby County fan.

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