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Calmer summer can boost Arsenal title challenge

18 May 2015, 16:04

London - Victory at home to Sunderland on Wednesday will guarantee Arsenal at least third place in the Premier League and spare them their usual headache at the start of the season.

It also represents progress, of sorts, for a club who have been mocked for "celebrating" finishing fourth in six of the past nine years.

While fourth place guarantees a Champions League playoff tie in August, an obstacle Arsenal have overcome with few scares in the past decade, third spot means direct entry to the group phase of Europe's most prestigious club competition.

That means Wenger will have a less frenzied start to the next campaign and can strengthen his squad calmly over the summer, ready to mount a serious challenge for the title next season.

Sunday's 1-1 draw at Manchester United virtually condemned the hosts to fourth place, meaning Louis van Gaal faces a potentially anxious summer with a two-legged tie against tough opponents complicating his planning.

Wenger said the demands of beating Turkish club Besiktas over two tight legs last August was a contributory factor in the dropped points that ultimately left them too far behind pace-setters Chelsea in a one-sided title race.

The way Arsenal are finishing the season suggests they should be major threats to Jose Mourinho's Chelsea when the new campaign kicks off, although Wenger remains wary.

"That's difficult to say because you don't know how strong the teams will be next year. Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool will all be on the market so it's difficult to know," the Frenchman said.

"I believe that we've come out of the season and we feel we have made progress in the Premier League compared to last season because we were consistent against the smaller teams then but this season we are stronger against the big teams.

"That's a big platform to do better."

"Overall, of course you want to be first but 17 teams would exchange position with you," he added.

With an abundance of creativity at The Emirates in the form of Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, Wenger's priority will probably be a player capable of anchoring the midfield when the Gunners are up against it -- the kind of role Patrick Vieira used to excel in.

Identifying and buying one could make the difference next season between another top-four celebration and greater glory.

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- Reuters


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