Speaking ahead of Mondays clash with Swansea City at the Emirates Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger conceded that Arsenal’s title was lost in their first eight games, it is hard to argue that opinion when you look at how they started their campaign.
Wenger‘s side won just two of their opening eight league games this season dropping points most notably at Goodison Park and White Hart Lane where they drew both games in September, this was followed by a poor showing at Stamford Bridge at the start of October. This uninspiring start saw Arsenal drop 11 points behind the eventual Champions Chelsea , this was something that they were never going to be able to realistically claw back.
If Arsenal make home advantage count on Monday they will close the gap down to 10 points and leapfrog Manchester City into second place but will highlight the kind of progress that is needed to challenge Jose Mourinho‘s men next season.
There are reasons for optimism though, there has been a clear progression this season or be it a little too late to mount a serious challenge. Wenger‘s side can still finish in the top two which for large parts of this season many thought was impossible, there is also another FA Cup final and if successful against Aston Villa would see Arsenal retain their trophy and bring two notable pieces of silverware in two seasons.
Wenger also eluded to “high ambitions” for next season, Arsenal are the most consistent team in Europe at present which is something to be optimistic about, there is still much to play for going into Monday nights game and it is about that all important thing called momentum.
No Arsenal fan wants to see the chore of Champions League qualification early on next season and it would be a nice change to see rivals having to enter that stage early on in the season so a second place finish is important not for only that reason, but to show any possible transfer targets that there is an ambition to continue the progress that has been made this season.
For a long time this season it has been questionable as to whether Wenger even knew his strongest XI in recent weeks I think it is safe to say he does. David Ospina has made the No.1 spot his own, there is a settled back four with Gabriel likely to feature heavily next season in the place of the ageing Per Mertesacker. Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin have developed a good understanding in front of the back four with Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil showing their quality in the final third. Many still believe the jury to be out on Olivier Giroud who still has his critics but has been vital in the run in this season contributing 14 Premier League goals despite his injury problems.
I would be very surprised if Arsenal were not pro-active this Summer with the need to continue to push on and become serious challengers, the finances are there for another marquee signing to go alongside Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. There will more than likely be a few departures which could include Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky which would free up some squad space.
There is an argument that rivals have faltered more than last season which is why Arsenal find themselves joint second but it feels different, the football is sharper, there is a desire like there has not been for sometime. There is definitely a case for optimism at the club providing that Wenger and the board don’t repeat their mistakes of past seasons and stick with what they have.
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