Arsenal's season ended in celebration, but Sarah Winterburn asks whether fourth place and no Premier League title challenge will be enough next year
Last Updated: 22/05/13 9:44am
Watching Arsenal's players cavorting around the St James' Park pitch after securing fourth by a whisker on the final day of the season, you couldn't help but wonder whether this was what they envisaged when the campaign kicked off at home to Sunderland on the opening day of the season. Possibly not. But they would have certainly taken that scenario when they lay in mid-table in early December or in early March when Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas warned of a "downward spiral" following Arsenal's damaging defeat in the north London derby.
In hindsight, losing your talisman and leading goalscorer in the summer and then going on to amass more points is a considerable achievement, but not to Arsenal fans who have been raised on a diet of silverware. Allow them the celebration after an impressively spirited end to the season, but summer investment must bring more tangible rewards next year.
Player of the Year - Santi Cazorla
A nod is due in the direction of Theo Walcott for his vital contribution but while the Englishman can be in equal parts hit and miss, Santi Cazorla has been impressively consistent. He may stand in the shadows of Juan Mata and David Silva, but we should not grow complacent and fail to appreciate the touch and the vision of Cazorla. He has been a glorious addition to the Premier League and arguably should have been in the PFA team of the year ahead of Eden Hazard.
Ratings Player of the Year
The Sky Sports reporters clearly had their eyes and heads switched on this season as they consistently rated Santi Cazorla as Arsenal's best player while bit-part Czech Tomas Rosicky also rated highly. We're shaking our collective heads at the readers who gave the disappointing Thomas Vermaelen an average score of 7.1 across the season. Reserve goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski scored higher but he started only five games.
Breakthrough Player of the Year - Carl Jenkinson
Unusually for Arsenal, this has not been a season of breakthroughs - there has been no Jack Wilshere or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to turn our heads. Jenkinson may have only started 14 Premier League games but he has shown enough composure to suggest that a possible summer exit for Bacary Sagna will not cause too much consternation amongst Arsenal fans. An England call-up and a lengthy new contract are testament to his progress.
Signing of the Year - Santi Cazorla
You knew that was coming, didn't you? Though Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski both delivered double figures in terms of goals, it was Cazorla who contributed 12 goals and 11 assists to Arsenal's Premier League campaign. Arsenal fans may have cursed the board for not splashing out on Juan Mata the year before, but they must be pretty pleased to have secured the next best thing last summer.
Could do better - Thomas Vermaelen
Perhaps it was the weight of the captain's armband (and the prospect of a big-money transfer that usually brings) but this was a season to forget for the Belgian centre-half. After a couple of years when he was vying with Robin van Persie as Arsenal's most valuable player, he was perhaps due a slump and boy, did he slump. The nadir came against Tottenham in early March and Arsene Wenger took the brave decision to drop his captain and bring together Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny to form a partnership that would earn them fourth.
Arsene Wenger irritates many with his talk of fourth place as a trophy and his incessant boasting of the 'quality' and 'spirit' in his squad, but there is still something wonderful in the way he leads a much-criticised side into the Champions League year upon year. He made brave decisions this season in dropping Vermaelen and resting Wojciech Szczesny and was rewarded...he will need to make more this summer as some players simply aren't good enough for a title challenge. One big spend and then one more season for Wenger?
Jamie Redknapp's view
Finishing in the top four this season was one of Arsene Wenger's greatest achievements during his time at Arsenal. Tottenham and Chelsea both have superior squads to Arsenal at the moment and the fact they've yet again secured Champions League football - as they have done for every season Wenger has been in charge - shows just how good a manager he is. However, we've seen throughout the season, particularly in the Champions League, they can be vulnerable and if they want to step up and start competing for trophies and more than just fourth place, Wenger can't afford to spend another summer losing his best players and replacing them with inferior signings. You can't be successful papering over the cracks - it's time for them to add some star names to their squad.