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All Guns Blazing: Arsenal fans should look to Europe this season

17:07 06 August 2014

Arsenal

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez

EMPICS Sport

As the Islington Gazette’s Arsenal fan column returns for the 2013/2014 season, Alex Bellotti looks at the club’s change in fortunes and what Gooners might expect in the season ahead.

So the new season is nearly upon us and the mood – in marked contrast to last year – is unprecedentedly positive among Gooners.

Considering that at this point in 2013, our only signing was the much-lampooned Yayo Sanogo (who, by a surreal convergence of stars, I saw knock in four goals on Saturday), surely no one could have prophesied the turn in fortunes Arsenal have experienced in so short a time.

Or perhaps they could. Ivan Gazidis and co often spoke in the barren years after the Emirates Stadium move of how the club was being set up to become a leading force in English football for years to come.

As the trophy drought went on, fans’ confidence in this master-plan gave way to cynicism and accusations of PR spin – often with good reason, I should add.

On the dawn of this new season, however, the recent signing of Alexis Sanchez has backed up the bluster and the renewed excitement was palpable during the Emirates Cup.

There’s a shift in how the club is being perceived, but do our goals shift accordingly in terms of what we can achieve? Personally, I would argue a little patience.

While Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy and David Ospina are all admirably smart buys – in some cases, they are even upgrades on what we had before – they are still essentially replacing players we have lost. The influx of new players this summer hasn’t particularly improved our options in terms of squad depth: realistically, Sanchez and Joel Campbell are the only additions to our number.

With Chelsea significantly strengthened and Manchester City’s title-winning squad maturing without any departures, a Premier League challenge will be possibly even more competitive than it was last year. For me, our most immediate improvement should come in Europe.

There’s no doubt Arsene Wenger feels the Champions League-sized hole in his CV, and with an increasing core of technical, tactically intelligent players, it’s clear he’s out to address the fact that we have underperformed abroad recently.

The Premier League will no doubt be an exciting campaign, but with a higher-quality (if not massive) squad suddenly full of knockout-tournament experience, football on the continent provides an immediate opportunity to show our progress. So let’s just hope we qualify first, eh?

Follow me @AlexBellotti

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