It was a nervy end to the season for most Arsenal fans, but no one could have predicted that the team would collect 26 points out of the remaining 10 games to clinch the final Champions League spot. In comparison to Arsenal's first 10 games which resulted in 15 points and left the team close to mid-table ignominy, scoring 17 and conceding 10 goals; the team only conceded 5 goals and scored 19 goals in their last 10 games. There is no doubt that the midfield sacrifice made by dropping Arteta and Ramsey deep to solidify the back-line has allowed the team to keep more clean sheets without significantly stifling the goal scoring, it does not take an Arsenal expert to know that the creativity of the team has suffered though.
The world is watching Arsenal's coffers, hoping that they will open and the gold held within will allow Wenger to sign the player he wants, if that player exists. In order to find out what is needed, it is important to assess which players can be considered surplus. With a look at defense, an area that has been considered Arsenal's Achilles heel in recent times, Arsenal may not need to make as many changes as initially suggested. Despite all the moaning, Arsenal had the second best defense in the league, only bettered by Manchester City, but in turn a superior goal difference than City.
We start at the back with Sczcesny. The young polish national goalkeeper started well, but like most Arsenal keepers he would go on to make mistakes which saw him left out of the squad and his mental strength questioned. Szczesny came back from his little incident to guide Arsenal into the top four with some stunning saves, especially with one magnificent save against QPR's Loic Remy. Wenger has not made a significant investment in a goalkeeper since Lehman and I don't see that changing, despite rumors linking Mignolet to the Arsenal goal.
The right-back position has been a contested one, with Sagna's dip in form and Jenkinson's coming of age. Rumors are that Sagna is half-way out the door, but the Frenchman is still an asset to the club. He came back from another injury incurred at the end of last season, and was not the same player that was included in two PFA team's of the season. Sagna had lost some pace, but also looked confused at times when given the ball. His mistake that led to a Van Persie penalty has been cited by many as the last straw. Jenkinson is seen as the natural replacement. He is young, an Arsenal fan, and can cross, but he is naive as displayed by his red card against Sunderland which left the team hanging by a thread to secure the 3 points. It will be interesting to see whether Sagna will come back after the summer, but if he does, Wenger will give him one more season as a starter.
Perhaps the most controversial exclusion has been captain Vermaelen. The Belgian has been snubbed by Wenger, which has led to an incredibly strong defense. Koscielny and Mertesacker have done well together and essentially secured Arsenal Champions League football for another year. Koscielny has been able to complement Mertesackers vision. What the German lacks in pace, he makes up for in intelligence, and in turn Koscielny sweeps up behind him. Despite his lanky nature and initial shaky start, Mertesacker is extremely composed on the ball. He was one of Schaaf's major acquisitions and fit in well with Naldo at Werder Bremen. His ability to play the ball from back, garnered him a starting position with the German National Team. While many fans know that Koscielny is the real deal and want him to start every game, Mertesacker's inclusion has consistently been questioned. Player's like Mertesacker do not fit in well with the British game, due to their lack of aggressiveness as defenders. Mertesacker gets cautioned less than most central defenders and rarely kicks the ball away in an uncontrolled manner after dispossessing the opposition. Vermaelen's future is in doubt and like the other captains before him, he may just leave this summer, but unlike the two previous captains, it won't be with much fanfare. Wenger may have to dip into the transfer market if that happens, to sign an accomplished defender to back up Koscielny and Mertesacker.
At left-back Arsenal may just have the strongest combination in the league. Both Gibbs and Monreal are captable players with an eye for crossing. Gibbs will be the preferred choice due to his speed and dare I say, "Cole effect". Since the days of Ashley Cole, Arsenal have produced Clichy and now Gibbs, who not only look like the Chelsea defector, but also are similar in play, speed and style. In Monreal, Arsenal have an extremely talented left-back, who may still be adapting to the pace of the English game, but who has already shown that he can get forward and cross the ball, or keep a tight shift on defense and he is also not Andre Santos.
With that being said, and without knowing what will happen to Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal need another central defender, but the rest of the backline and its backup look solid.