Arsenal’s summer ahead previewed: what Gunners must do to challenge for title

Arsenal have endured another miserable season but Arsene Wenger, written off time and again, could salvage the season and his future.

The Gunners are in the semi-finals of the Europa League and if they can negotiate their way into the final past Atletico Madrid, they will be strong favourites to beat either Marseille or Red Bull Salzburg.

Champions League football will come with victory in the Europa League, after falling well short of the traditional path inside the top four.

Wenger, or no Wenger, the Gunners must spend and also strip their squad of several players not up to the challenge.

Contracts will be key too, to avoid the Alexis Sanchez fiasco again, meaning Aaron Ramsey’s future must be addressed as a matter of urgency – here are the other jobs that Arsenal must focus on to return to prominence.

Who they need to keep

Hector Bellerin, Aaron Ramsey. Pace and goals they cannot afford to lose.

Who they need to lose

Shkodran Mustafi.

What they have to address

The philosophy and direction of the club. The spine of the team needs replacing – they need a new long term No1, centre half and midfield anchorman. Laurent Koscielny’s fitness is a major issue because he has been their best defender but is struggling with injuries.

Who they need to target

Bayer Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno. West Brom defender Jonny Evans. And a midfield anchorman. They need a midfielder to protect the defence. The reason they are losing away games is that they do not have that. Hoffenheim midfielder Kerem Demirbay has been linked.

Is the current manager the man to win the title

No. They need to replace Arsene Wenger with a younger, more vibrant manager. I think Joachim Low, Leonardo Jardim, Brendan Rodgers and Mikel Arteta are all on their shortlist. Wenger may well go this summer – even if they win the Europa League.

Overall prospects

Arsenal finished runners-up in the Premier League in 2016 and yet consistent top four finishes and that freak second place masks a worrying underlying decline in the club’s fortunes.

They are further away than ever from the genuine title-challenging elite of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea.

And sticking with Arsene Wenger for another year would see them slip even further behind. One more year could set them back another three years. The club is improving off the pitch but the most important thing of all – the football team (remember that?) – is in poor shape.

Arsenal’s recruitment in recent windows has been a car crash. One summer with no outfield signings followed by another with the best part of £100m spent on Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Lucas Perez. Only Xhaka has shown signs, albeit fleetingly.

It is difficult to keep up with the big spenders and yet Tottenham and Liverpool have managed it – and they are improving. So the excuse about money should not always be used.

Realistically, Arsenal have no chance of challenging Manchester City next season unless they have a radical overhaul, starting with the manager and then ending with a squad in sorry decline.

They have got some good players, but some bang average and poor defenders and they do not seem to have a midfielder who knows how to defend.

And worst of all, Arsenal’s fans have given up on them. They have lost heart, lost enthusiasm and become bored and apathetic about the whole situation. That’s why they are staying away.

The only possible sign of recovery must be with winning the Europa League to get back into the Champions League. Then they must seize the moment by changing managers and shake up an under performing, badly balanced squad short on quality and direction.

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