Arsenal's quest for silverware

Posted by Andrew Mangan

As it stands, Arsenal will not win a trophy next season. It's Aug. 13, just four days until the new season kicks off, and the club's only move in the transfer market has been to bring in a young, inexperienced striker from Ligue 2.

When Arsenal secured fourth place last season there was, first and foremost, relief. Relief that there'd be a shot at securing Champions League football, that they'd finished ahead of archrivals Tottenham and that in doing so, they gave themselves a platform on which to build for the new campaign.

Relief turned to expectation as Ivan Gazidis, the club's chief executive, trumpeted loudly about how their spending power on the back of new commercial deals would see them make the team more competitive.

"We want to be a club that is competing at the very top end of the game," he said. "And that means competing to win the Premier League and competing to win the Champions League. Our majority owner Mr. Kroenke has made it clear that while it's an achievement to make the Champions League our ultimate objective is to win the major trophies.

"We get beaten up along the way but I think we are an extraordinarily ambitious club," he said.

Strong words, indeed, but anyone can talk. Arsenal fans were happy to listen and keen to believe, but the feeling was that actions would speak louder than any PR spin Gazidis or anyone else at the club came out with.

And if we judge this summer on actions alone, it's hard to reconcile the Gazidis's talk of extraordinary ambition with what we've seen. One player, Yaya Sanogo -- a talented 20-year-old with an unfortunate injury record and little or no top-flight experience -- has come in, while the squad has been culled of "deadwood" and fringe players. In itself, this is not a bad thing. Of the nine first-team squad members who have gone, only two (Vito Mannone and Gervinho) made any positive contribution to last season, but you can't speak of ambition and not replace any of those players with better ones.

Last season Arsenal finished 16 points behind Premier League winners Manchester United. While they might struggle to defend their title after a change of manager, it's impossible to see Arsenal make up that many points with the squad they currently have. Around them, Chelsea and Manchester City have added to their teams quietly and efficiently and the competition will be more intense.

Arsenal's squad simply isn't good enough to win the Champions League. Despite a fine 2-0 win over the eventual winners Bayern Munich last season, there are teams far better than them in Europe. The idea that, with this group of players, they can compete properly with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and the big spenders such as Chelsea, PSG and others seems far-fetched. They haven't been beyond the round of 16 for three seasons, winning the thing is not so much as a step, but a giant leap, too far.

So, you'd say a domestic cup is their best hope of silverware, but even then there must be huge doubts. When they had the chance to put a trophy on the shelf in the League Cup in 2011 against Birmingham, they contrived to lose the final in an almost comedic manner. Last season they were dumped out of the same competition by Bradford, a team three divisions below them, and the FA Cup went begging after a home defeat by Championship side Blackburn Rovers.

To lose one of those games might be seen as unfortunate -- giant killings often happen in cup competitions -- but going out twice in one season to lower-league opposition speaks to a fundamental flaw within the team and its mentality. Although the cups represent Arsenal's best chance of a trophy, I don't think they have what it takes to go the distance in either tournament.

There is a however to all this: I firmly believe that with the right kind of investment in the team Arsenal have a fantastic platform to change things and make winning trophies not just a possibility, but a probability. They have a core of very talented players who, with the addition of some real quality and depth, could easily make a serious challenge for the Premier League next season.

Bringing in those kind of players would also change the mentality, add confidence and belief, and enable them to compete on more than one front. But as honest and decent as the current crop are, I don't think they'll win anything unless those additions are made to the squad. And quickly.


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