With Arsenal’s rivals set to strengthen over the summer, can Arsene Wenger build a winning team around likely signing Granit Xhaka and challenge for that elusive Premier League title?
Arsenal have, for the last decade or so, been perennial under-achievers. Always starting with so much promise and ambition, often leading or challenging for the top spot on the Premier League table before Christmas each year, Arsenal gives its fans much to cheer about, until spring time that is.
Ever since their 2003/4 title winning season in which they did the unbelievable – going the entire season unbeaten, Arsene Wenger’s sides have failed to return to the lofty heights of Premier League champions.
Year in year out it has been purple patch followed by a slump followed by a purple-ish patch. Lavender let’s call it. By the time he has ironed out the spring time malaise his team has been left in the wake of the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.
This season, when all the big names faltered, Wenger had his chance. The only problem was that spring time collapse. Sure enough, it struck again. Between January 2nd and March 2nd, Arsenal won a total of two games from nine played.
Dropping off the pace set by eventual and unlikely champions Leicester City, it was only the capitulation of Tottenham Hotspur in their final three games of the season that allowed the Gunners finish second, a whole ten points being the champions.
Wenger, who has had to fight for his managerial life this season, looks to be making perhaps one final push for the title next season. Hugely active in the transfer market, if reports are to be believed, Wenger looks set to capture at least one huge signing this summer, that being Borussia Monchengladbach’s star midfielder Granit Xhaka.
The Switerzland international has been a target of Wenger’s for months now and following reports that the 23 year old was in London over the weekend to complete a medical, the official word of his signing with the Emirates club is expected any day.
With acquisitions such as Xhaka and with Mesut Ozil looking to be staying put, can Arsenal finally mount a season long challenge for the title? There is a serious concern among fans that the answer might well again be a disappoint ‘no’.
Looking at the promising generation of Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshire and ex-Manchester unite player Danny Welbeck, each arrived into the Arsenal first team on the back of massive promise and excellent form. All three however, have suffered persistent injuries and have failed to cement themselves into the squad for any prolonged period of time.
Having not previously suffered any significant injuries prior to their Arsenal careers, you might well ask what Wenger is doing as manager to cause many of his top players to spend so much time on the physio table.
Arsene Wenger may well have let his best chance at another title slip through his grasp this season. The arrival next season of Pep Guardiola to Man City, Antonio Conte to Chelsea and the all but confirmed Jose Mourinho to Manchester United, the expectation is that the big guns will be back fighting for top sport in 2016/7.
Wenger’s 21st season in charge will be a far more competitive one and unless he can build a consistently fit and functioning side, you can forget the Premier League title and maybe even Champions League qualification.
As we have seen with Louis van Gaal, failing to qualify for the Champions League comes with a hefty price.