Arsenal’s Monday night win over struggling Newcastle at the Emirates has left them firmly in the box seat to ensure they are playing Champions League football next season. Everton’s weekend slip to Southampton means the Gunners need only three points from their remaining two games to guarantee fourth spot on the Premier League table.
But after promising so much in the early parts of the season, and at one time appearing to be genuine title threats, will fourth position be considered a success for long term, and sometimes under fire manager Arsene Wenger?
It must not be forgotten that Arsenal have spent more time on top of the Premier League table than any other club in 2013-14. So the position they have found themselves in of potentially missing the Champions League for the first time in 17 years could seem like a considerable fall from grace.
Of course Wenger has the opportunity to break the club’s much talked about nine-year trophy drought when his team meet Hull in the FA Cup Final on May 17. And you can bet that game means a lot to the North London faithful.
Monday night’s chants at the Emirates of ‘We’re the world famous Arsenal and we’re going to Wembley’ can attest to that. However, if they do in fact bring home some much-awaited silverware, will their season still be considered a good one for a club seemingly a European heavyweight?
On paper things look ok. Champions League second round action, a spot in the top four, and potentially an FA Cup title. Well perhaps for this year it can be viewed as a pass mark for Wenger. But moving forward, one must think the expectation from the Arsenal board will be that they must be challenging for the title at this point in the season, and not just in the familiar fight for fourth.
Of course their campaign has been cruelled by injuries to key men Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. But injuries are an inevitable part of modern sport, and Arsenal has a clear lack of depth in key positions compared to current title contenders Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.
It is also clear that Wenger must open the company chequebook in search of a world-class goal scorer. Olivier Giroud has performed admirably up front for the Gunners, but he lacks the same undisputed class of some of the other strikers who have dominated the league in recent years—former Arsenal hero Robin Van Persie and Liverpool talisman Luis Suarez, for example.
Fans were crying out for a major signing at the start of the year, and although Mesut Ozil’s recruitment from Real Madrid brought results early on, he has not been the success many would have hoped for. There is no denying the German’s class, however, so perhaps 2014-15 can be his season to shine?
Whatever the case in the next transfer window, there is still work to do for Arsenal over the next few weeks, and great things to achieve. For a man that has done so much for the club, another FA Cup is essential for Wenger’s resume, as is playing Champions League again.
For this year, that much will suffice. But for next year and beyond, a Premier League title will be the true test of Arsenal’s success.
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