While Arsenal fans are split as to whether Arsene Wenger signing his new contract is a good or bad thing, the fact is that the Frenchman will still be in charge when the new season gets underway in August. On the back of a campaign that would have gone down as a huge disappointment had it not been for their 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup Final on May 27, Arsenal look set for a busy summer in which Wenger will be under the most pressure he has ever been under at the club. Without Champions League football next year following their fifth place finish, the Gunners face a real battle to not only tempt world class players to sign, but also in keeping those world class players already at the club, such as last year’s top scorer Alexis Sanchez.
One tournament that Arsenal may be looking to focus on will be the Europa League. While the competition has found itself labelled by many in England as European football’s unwanted child, Manchester United showed last season that it does serve a purpose: entry into the Champions League. For many other countries around Europe, however, the Europa League is an important tournament in itself, and one which a lot of teams – namely Spanish, who have produced eight of the last 12 winners – take seriously.
Champions League disappointments
Having come painfully close to winning the Champions League in 2006 at the Stade de France, losing 2-1 in the final to a Barcelona team wearing their iconic striped kit – one of only eight times a team wearing stripes has won the final in the last 24 years, as highlighted by this Betway Insider infographic below – European glory has eluded Wenger during his time at the club. Despite the fact that 63% of teams wearing plain kits have gone on to win the Champions League Final when facing opposition wearing patterned jerseys, Arsenal’s sole appearance in the final ultimately ended in disappointment despite wearing their plain yellow away kit bearing only their famous badge and the logo of O2; their shirt sponsor that season.
Before any thought of signings, one of the most important tasks for Arsenal will be to resolve the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil – both of whom are entering the final year of their respective contracts at the Emirates Stadium. For a team without many world class players, keeping hold of the two they do have will be essential to any hope the Gunners have of success next season. As well as that, Wenger will be under no illusions that this squad needs strengthening. The club have already added a new face to their ranks in the shape of £20 million Schalke left back Sead Kolasinac, and Arsenal fans will be hoping this is the first of many new signings this summer and not yet another false dawn. With a sizeable war chest at his disposal, boosted by the club’s ongoing relationship with Emirates, Wenger is now under pressure to spend big this summer.
Areas To Strengthen
As well as continuing to bolster a defence that conceded 44 Premier League goals last season, more than five other clubs, Wenger really needs to add an out-and-out goalscorer to his squad. Without Sanchez’s 30 goals last season, 24 coming in the league, only three other players in the squad reached double figures in all competitions. Gooners have been calling for years for Wenger to go out and make a statement by buying a striker capable of scoring 25-plus goals a year, and the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – top scorer in the Bundesliga last season with 31 league goals – have both been linked with a move to North London this summer. For a man who thought signing Yaya Sanogo – who scored once in four seasons at the club – was a good idea, though, there are some who feel Wenger is incapable of spotting a genuine world class striker when he sees one.
Europa League Hopes
The Europa League might not hold the same prestige as the Champions League but that’s not to say it is an easy competition to succeed in. As well as Arsenal, European powerhouses such as AC Milan, Lyon, PSV Eindhoven and Galatasaray are all set to compete in next season’s tournament – highlighting the strength of the competition, if not the glamour. For Arsenal, the main focus next season will be on getting back into the Champions League, and winning the Europa League would not only provide this, it would also see the club win a European trophy for the first time since 1994.