Can Arsenal bounce back next season?
North London was most certainly red after Arsenal finished the season in style with a famous victory over Premiership champions Chelsea in a spine-tingling FA Cup final. It vindicated Arsene Wenger’s loyalists, quelled the mutiny among his doubters and brought everyone connected with the club together for a great celebration. It allowed Wenger to sign a new two-year contract from a position of strength, but there is a crucial summer ahead. If Wenger and his team fail to act swiftly and decisively to bring in several top class players to ensure the club close the gap on their rivals, the Wenger out chorus will grow deafening once again and the harmony that abounds will be shattered.
It is hard to label the past season a success, despite victory in the FA Cup. Finishing fifth, 11 points below Tottenham and 18 behind Chelsea represents a miserable showing in the league. Losing 10-2 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in the Champions League was extremely humiliating. The cup win papers over cracks, and the squad needs serious surgery. It is therefore disappointing to hear Wenger quoted in typically downbeat fashion about the impending transfer window. He said Arsenal will sign “a maximum of two or three players”. Let’s hope those two signings are not Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer and Onyekuru for £7 million. Let’s hope he spends his reported £150 million transfer kitty, and that there are figures in the club powerful and influential enough to put pressure on Wenger to do so.
He points to the success of Rob Holding, signed for £2 million, to suggest you do not need to spend big to secure the services of a quality player. Holding played well towards the end of the season, but it is way too early to call him a successful signing. Splashing the cash typically does land you with players in their prime with proven ability on the big stage. Man City have already spent big on Bernardo Silva after he won Ligue 1 for Monaco, ahead of PSG, and lit up the Champions League. Arsenal’s rivals will spend a fortune on established talent, not on youngsters from Bolton or KAS Eupen. Buying for the future brought Arsenal no success whatsoever. We now have the financial muscle to buy for the present in a bid to win the league and should be investing in the sort of players we have been linked with: Kylian Mbappe, Riyad Mahrez, Arda Turan. These are established stars (even Mbappe, who is young but has plenty of experience) and they would immediately improve the Arsenal team.
The Gunners need more than three players if they are to avoid the embarrassment of finishing below Tottenham again. They aren’t playing in north London next season, but they will claim it is white if they finish above us again. They are strong in all departments and beat us convincingly towards the end of the campaign. We need players in the mould of Toby Alderweireld, Victor Wanyama and Harry Kane if we are to overhaul them. Players that will form a strong core to the side, making us tougher to break down and more efficient in front of goal. A centre back, a holding midfielder, a left wing-back and a striker are needed, preferably along with another winger. If Arsenal could actually sign Mbappe and Mahrez, positivity would abound and it might convince the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to stick around. Wenger’s language at present will do little to persuade them to stay. It’s time for Arsenal to show some ambition, prove that we are a big club and make a real statement in the summer transfer window. Then the fans can all get behind Wenger and the team and we can push for a return to the glory days.
Bookmakers have already written Arsenal off for next season, as we are just sixth favourites behind Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd, Tottenham and Liverpool. But it might be worth backing Arsenal to spring a surprise. Respected betting sites will definitely have odds for them, and you can get odds of around 14/1 on them winning the league. If you go each-way it covers you for them finishing in the top three at a fifth of the odds, so you would still make a considerable profit at 14/5 if they finished second or third. They will not have the distraction of Champions League football and can focus on a real crack at the league. Wenger has promised to leave if they do not mount a serious challenge, and Arsenal could surprise many next season if the team unites to play for the boss.
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