Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal have fallen short in this year’s title race and the team has been hit with a great deal of criticism after a disappointing 3-0 home defeat to Brighton.
The result all but end’s Arsenal’s hopes of a top-flight title and they sit four points behind the Premier League leaders Manchester City, who need just one win from their final three games to secure their status as champions. This outcome seems a formality for a team which has won 11 successive Premier League games.
Arteta will be extremely disappointed with his side's end of the season form. At the start of April after a 4-1 victory over Leeds - his side entered the last nine games with an eight-point lead over Man City having played just one game extra.
At the bare minimum Arsenal fans at that stage would have expected to take the title race down to the last game of the season and many hoped that the team would bring back the Premier League trophy for the first time since 2004.
Disappointing draws against Southampton and West Ham United along with a 4-1 thrashing against title rivals Manchester City proved costly for The Gunners in the end - but this is far from a disappointing season although the picture may appear bleak at this moment in time.
The Gunners have an exceptionally strong team which has impressed throughout the campaign. But what do Arsenal need to do to reach the next level and dethrone Pep Guardiola’s dominant Manchester City team next season?
Keep key players
Arsenal have been excellent throughout the season and they have exceeded expectations by surpassing the 80 point mark for just the second time in the last 19 years.
Mikel Arteta has done an excellent job in bringing the team into the title race and most Gunners fans would have been happy with a fourth place finish before a ball was kicked - particularly after their end of season collapse last season which cost them a place in the top four.
This campaign is the first time that Arsenal have been involved in a legitimate title race since 2008 and it is the first time that they have qualified for the Champions League since Arsene Wenger was manager in 2016.
A large amount of this season’s success can be attributed to the form of talented youngsters such as Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard who have all increased their output in terms of goals and assists.
At the other end of the field Arsenal have also been heavily reliant on strong performances from a young backline and key players such as Aaron Ramsdale, William Saliba, Gabriel and Ben White have all thrived.
These players are all under the age of 25 and have great room to grow and improve. It is crucial that Arsenal keep hold of this talented young group as they are likely to receive interest from a host of Europe’s elite clubs during the summer transfer window.
Adding squad depth
Arsenal are back in the Champions League for the first time since 2016 and they have a huge opportunity to attract some of the world’s biggest talents.
However, the Gunners are going to need greater squad depth if they are going to be able to thrive in both the domestic and European competitions.
There is a significant gulf between the Europa League and the Champions League and Arsenal will need to play a much stronger team in Europe to simply progress from the group stage.
This added strain of Europe means the team is going to need to have stronger options in each area of the pitch. The first choice 11 for Arsenal rarely dropped points but the slightest change to the team seemed to disjoint the operation.
Throughout the season Arteta has appeared reluctant to change and tweak his team unless it is forced upon him through injury and it is clear that the Spaniard needs to invest in higher calibre squad players to enable a smoother rotation process.
Reigning champions Manchester City are a perfect example of this and they look fresher than ever during the final furlong of the season. Guardiola is blessed with a huge squad packed with talent and other than Kevin De Bruyne, Erling Haaland and Ederson they essentially have a like for like player in every position who is of similar quality.
While it will be hard for Arsenal to reach that standard in just one transfer window it is likely that they will need to invest heavily to be in and around the title race next year.
The likes of Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea and Newcastle will all look to improve in the summer transfer window and Arsenal will need to do the same to keep their lead on these teams.
Signing a centre back
Arsenal struggled with injuries at certain points this season and one of the most notable examples of this has been shown in recent weeks with Saliba’s absence.
Arsenal have kept just one clean sheet in the nine games since Saliba’s injury and the likes of Rob Holding and Jakub Kiwior have both struggled to show the same solidity as the Frenchman.
The centre back position stands out as a key area for improvement for The Gunners although Gabriel and Saliba are still extremely strong players in defence.
Previous title winning teams have relied on a world class centre back to help the team and in recent years fans have seen that with Ruben Dias and Vincent Kompany of Manchester City, Virgil Van Dijk of Liverpool, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho of Chelsea and Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United.
While Arsenal’s previous title winning teams featured elite defenders and leaders such as Sol Campbell, Tony Adams, Kolo Toure and Martin Keown.
The club are likely to also require further depth and physicality in the central midfield area with Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo being touted as potential transfer targets.
Signing a proven goalscorer
Gabriel Jesus has enjoyed a steady first season with Arsenal which has seen him score 10 goals and provide six assists despite spending a lengthy period on the sidelines during the Christmas period.
Despite his talents, it is still evident that Arsenal need a proven goalscorer if they are going to take that next step and win a Premier League title.
Loanee Folarin Balogun could be the answer to that question and he has huge potential after his 19 goals season in Ligue 1 with Will Still’s Reims team.
The 21-year-old is certainly one to watch out for and he deserves further first team exposure - but Arsenal may still need another prolific striker in the transfer window as Bolgun is largely untested in English football other than a brief loan spell at Middlesborough in the Championship where he scored three goals in 18 appearances.
Arsenal have won the Premier League three times since the competition was formed in 1992 and in each of those seasons they have had a proven goalscorer such as Thierry Henry, Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp or Nicolas Anelka.
Signing a leader
Arsenal are blessed with an extremely talented young team and they are the second youngest squad in the Premier League behind Southampton.
The Gunners have huge potential to grow and improve but they are likely to need more leadership in the dressing room if they are to provide a further threat to Man City’s reign of dominance.
Speaking on Sky Sports, former Arsenal player Patrick Vieira claimed that the team needs more “personality and competitiveness” to get them through those key moments. Those attributes were the same areas that the team thrived in during their last reign of dominance in the Premier League.
During Arsene Wenger’s early years Arsenal were packed with leaders such as Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Lee Dixon, Theirry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva which all guided the young players at the time.