Arsenal's 2011-12 season has been a bit of a roller coaster, to put it mildly. Injuries, despite a modicum of investment last summer, left the Gunners fighting to maintain their top-four spot and Champions League football. Now on the up, it's not too early to look forward to next season.
If Arsenal is going to return to the very top of the Premier League and challenge the Uniteds and Cities of the world for a league title, reinforcements are probably necessary. The return of Jack Wilshere from long-term injury and the continued improvement of player like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will help, but no team pushing for the title can get by without spending.
After failing to fully replace the departed Samir Nasri, the summer of 2012 is crucial to the future of the Arsenal midfield.
When it comes to goals, Wenger and Co.. can only rely on Robin van Persie to bail them out for so long. Considering van Persie's contract situation (his current deal expires in 2013), it's probably time to start pondering life after RvP. It could also be that a big signing or three convinces van Persie that the future at Arsenal is bright.
But recent history says there's probably not going to be a lot of cash spent in the summer. That's despite rumored interest from Arsenal in names like Eden Hazard, Mario Goetze and Lukas Podolski. Wenger might take a shot at landing one of them, but it's highly unlikely, bordering on impossible, he'll snag all three.
If Arsenal and Wenger loosen the purse-strings, however, next year's team could be formidable. Quality of depth ultimately decides the league title race, but an Arsenal team strengthened by the arrival of the Belgian Hazard or either of the Germans mentioned above might push for silverware.
As the Arsenal trophy drought continues, the pressure on Wenger to appease the frustrated fan base reaches critical mass. If next year's team isn't an improvement on the 2011-12 edition, something might explode.
For the sake of argument, let's imagine an Arsenal team with all of the rumored names included. How much stronger would the side be, and which current starters would lose their places?
No changes are expected at the goalkeeper position, where Szczesney has been good for the Gunners.
No changes here because Arsenal is not sufficiently linked to any defenders that would be obvious improvements over the four above. Mertesacker may not have filled the fan base with immense confidence week-in and week-out, but without any big signings in the offing, and Laurent Koscielny on the bench as cover, Per remains in the team.
Wilshere, provided he returns from injury as strong as before, will immediately regain his spot and cannot be overrated as a boost for the club. Goetze, while a will-he-or-won't-he transfer saga currently wanted by half of the world's big clubs, gets the nod as a new signing that would immediately make the Gunners first XI in the role typically held down by 2011 signing Mikel Arteta.
Robin van Persie
Getting van Persie out of the first team is impossible, short of Arsenal signing Lionel Messi, Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic. And even then...
Walcott stays, on the strength of his speed, while possible signing Lukas Podolski slides in to the attack in place of the inconsistent Gervinho. A tandem of Robin van Persie and Lukas Podolski would certainly be among the most formidable in Europe.