An FA Cup triumph was the perfect antidote for Arsenal after a season of fan protests and underperformance. Arsene Wenger’s future was once again the centrepiece of footballing debate, and Arsenal were evicted from their top four home.
Their 2016/17 season needed a lift, and the tale could have been so different had their Wembley date with Chelsea brought a Bluer outcome. Luckily, though, a Victor Moses red card and an inspired Gunner performance brought yet another FA Cup to Wenger’s hands.
Things had been bleak for much of last term at the Emirates. When Alexis Sanchez’s name appeared on transfer rumour pages with increased frequency it could easily have turned to a summer of
meltdown and rebuild again. Instead, Arsenal have dusted themselves off and used their season-ending trophy as a light to follow.
Gap Year Memories
That optimism is not the usual blind hope at the start of a new season, either. Despite the frustration of last year’s fifth-place finish, the Gunners can take solace from the benefits that Chelsea, Liverpool and Leicester have had in recent years from being without Champions League commitment.
Though the Europa League sets up the dreaded Thursday-Sunday fixture pattern for Arsenal this season, Wenger’s open disinterest in the competition makes widespread rotation as good as guaranteed. We can expect Arsenal to have a ‘B team’ for their Thursday jaunts to the far corners of Europe, which will keep their key first-teamers fighting fit for the Premier League effort.
Aside from their run to the final 10 years ago, the Champions League has been little more than a point of frustration for Wenger’s sides, and a vacation from the last 16 eliminations could be a blessing in disguise.
Ready to embark on another Premier League season, Arsenal have continued their rejuvenated transfer policy in breaking their club record to sign Alexandre Lacazette. With the shackles taken off
in the last few seasons, Wenger has been able to flex the club’s financial muscles on an annual basis. The concern, though, was if the Gunners would keep up with the rapidly inflating market; the
acquisition of Lacazette proved they would.
Further names may yet be added to a strong-looking squad, too, while free transfer Sead Kolasinac got his Arsenal career off to a pleasant start with the equaliser in the season’s curtain-raiser at
Wembley last Sunday.
A change of transfer tact has built a squad at Arsenal that belongs in the upper echelon of domestic and European football. The future of Sanchez will yet be definitive, but Wenger has a group of
players only a couple of additions short of realistic title contention.
Arsenal feature in a Pick 4 Rollover and I have backed them to stroll past Leicester in my Syndicate which you can join here.
Is it finally their year?
A dust-gathering trophy cabinet drew criticism during the early Emirates years, and now Arsenal’s FA Cup victories have calmed such jibes.
Their next challenge, though, is conquering their inconsistencies that have made a title run a step too far for the last decade. Injuries, prolonged dips in form and clear squad deficiencies have cost
Arsenal all too frequently, now – without Champions League distraction – the Gunners are set to finally take the next leap forwards in the Premier League.
One persistent element that has held the Gunners back has been Wenger’s decision making. Loyalty to certain players and an inability to adapt his team’s setup have seen Arsenal caught out in the
same way on countless occasions. A change in shape late last season has, however, suggested that Wenger has changed his spots, and that this could be the beginning of a joyous twilight to his tenure.
Gunning for Top Spot
While the remainder of the transfer window will be pivotal to the expectations for every Premier League side, Arsenal are set up for their best shot at the title since their move to their shiny new
Freedom from Champions League commitments, a new formation and a squad deeper than many of their rivals put Arsenal in a position of strength. Signings are still required, but the early arrival of their marquee striker addition has enabled the Gunners to have a full pre-season with their opening day squad.
Few will be backing Arsenal for the title this season and, while that’s understandable after last season, Wenger’s squad may well benefit from the relative underdog tag. We cannot yet label Arsenal as title certainties, but they are in as good a position as anyone to push for the title into spring 2018.