It has been a rather predictable week in football, at least on the face of it. Atlético Madrid’s momentous claiming of their first La Liga title since 1996 with a draw at the Nou Camp to break the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid is certainly historic and a great achievement, but in reality, the Rojiblancos should have wrapped up the league weeks ago. Following the game, Tata Martino announced what everyone had already known for months, that he will not be in charge of Barcelona next season. This was shortly followed by the club giving another announcement of information everyone already knew, that former player and reserve team manager Luís Enrique would be Barcelona’s new first team coach and that Borussia Mönchengladbach goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen will be replacing the departing Valdes and Pinto. Barcelona were hardly the only purveyors of obvious statements either, with Manchester United also in on the act. Since shortly after the sacking of David Moyes it has been apparent that his replacement would be current Dutch national team boss Louis van Gaal. This week the inevitable appointment was finally made, with Ryan Giggs filling the role of Assistant Manager, and the signing of Luke Shaw to surely follow.
Arsenal’s victory over an out of form Hull then could be viewed as yet another predictable event in a week in which there were few shocks or spills. Of course, for anyone who watched the game however, it was obvious that there was nothing straightforward about the Gunners’ triumph. Whilst the result may have been predictable, the journey there certainly wasn’t. Hull entered the final in woeful form, having not won any of their previous five matches. During this barren spell, the Tigers were often described as having had ‘one eye on the final’, and this focus very nearly paid off for Hull as they shot off the line and into a 0-2 lead within 10 minutes. It was very nearly the culmination of a disappointing season for Arsenal whose fans have had to become used to falling just short of glory far too often in the last 9 years. The Gunners did manage to fight back though, quite admirably breaking down a resilient Hull side with Cazorla and Koscielny levelling the score to take the match into extra-time. It was fitting that Arsenal’s player of the season Aaron Ramsey struck the winning goal in spectacular fashion, culminating a redemptive season for the Welshman, and giving fans a glimpse of what could have been if Ramsey had not been injured.
The win marked a great moment of Arsenal fans and also for Arsene Wenger, who was able to finally throw off the spectre of his nine year trophy drought and dispel any accusations that he is a ‘specialist in failure’. The FA Cup victory can now be used as a springboard for what has been a simultaneously promising and yet disappointing season. However, the difficult manner of the victory must serve as a warning for Wenger and a spur to spend big this summer. Arsenal achieved the fourth meanest defence in the Premier League last season, but that stat flatters a backline which has shipped too many goals against the best sides and on the biggest occasions this term. With Sagna set to leave the club a right back is obviously needed, but Arsenal also never truly replaced Gael Clichy, and even another centre back would not go amiss. Furthermore, the huge impact that Mathieu Flamini has made on his return to the club has underlined that the Gunners still lack bite in midfield. Gareth Barry has been touted as a possible signing, and the Everton loanee would certainly fit the bill, and for free too. However, Barry would only represent another stopgap addition, Daniele De Rossi or Kevin Strootman of Roma would be more ideal, if expensive signings. In defence there are any number of candidates, with Dani Alves reportedly ready to leave Barcelona, and powerful wingback Serge Aurier having now outgrown Toulouse. Another quality striker must also be near the top of Wenger’s shopping list, whether it is compatriot Karim Benzema of Real Madrid, or more affordable, yet unquestionably talented Ivoirians Wilfried Bony and Seydou Doumbia. Regardless of who Arsenal bring in, the Gunners need to spend big on both quality and depth, with Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham all set on upsetting the top four next year.