Even after sitting in top spot for 268 days during the 2022/23 season, Arsenal ultimately fell away from the race for the Premier League title.
It was a bruising drop-off for the Gunners, but it showed what this side is capable of under Mikel Arteta and should serve as motivation for next season.
With Manchester City seemingly going from strength to strength under Pep Guardiola, it’s the perfect opportunity for Arsenal and Arteta to put a stop to their dominance.
Can Arsenal challenge for the title next season?
Arsenal are in an incredible position to push on after flirting with the title and can use this season as a springboard to further success.
They showed for a large portion of the 22/23 campaign that they were the best team in the league. Ultimately, that wasn’t the case, but there were plenty of positives to take from it.
But even with those positives, there are aspects of the side that needs adjusting, fine tuning and upgrading if they are to knock City off their perch.
Keeping hold of key players is essential
Bukayo Saka has signed a new deal recently which is important, and there will be interest in other key players from some of world football’s wealthiest sides.
Saka signing a new deal is a commitment to the future of the team under Arteta which is essential to success. Ensuring key players remain at the Emirates is the key to long-term success. With an average age of 24.6, they had the second youngest starting XI last season. Manchester City were 17th at 27.2, Liverpool 16th at 27.3 and Manchester United 13th at 26.8.
The reason why this is so important is longevity and experience. Arsenal showed they were capable even with a young team, now imagine keeping the young group together, while other sides are ageing.
There’s more potential in this team and keeping hold of the key players is imperative to any future title challenges.
Rebuild the middle of the park
The question that needs to be asked is whether Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey are good enough for a title challenging midfield?
Evidence of the season suggests that isn’t the case. Xhaka’s rousing of the crowd at Anfield was one example of what not to do in a high pressure situation. They’re perhaps good enough to be involved in the squad, but when challenging for titles, central midfield is essential.
Manchester City have had Rodri, Liverpool have had Fabinho, Chelsea have had Makelele in years gone by. Holding midfielders protecting the defence and ensuring the midfield is knitted together, Xhaka and Partey sadly do not fill those criteria.
There’s argument to suggest that the potential arrival of Declan Rice doesn’t quite fill that role, but if his abilities allow the likes of either Partey of Xhaka to drop into a reduced holding role, then it could work. This is of course if Xhaka stays at the Emirates amid interest from Germany.
Whatever the case, adding elements into the central midfield that allow for greater control within games and protection of the defence will give Arteta a better chance for a sustained title push.
Adding depth in central defence
There’s no denying that the absence of William Saliba played a huge role in Arsenal dropping off towards the end of the season.
Arsenal’s win percentage dropped from 77.8% to 44.4% without the Frenchman, going from conceding 0.9 goals per game, to 1.9.
Adding more quality into central defence will ultimately sure the team up and give Arteta more options should he lose one of Saliba or Gabriel throughout the course of a season.