Arsenal's title dreams are over - the Kroenkes must step up to ensure Mikel Arteta's squad avoid similar collapses in the future

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The Gunners will come up agonisingly short in their bid for a first Premier League title since 2004, and now a huge summer transfer window awaits

Mikel Arteta apologised to Arsenal’s fans after Sunday’s dismal home defeat against Brighton. It wasn’t really an apology over the result, but more over the fact that his side had failed to live up to the lofty expectations that their performances over the course of the season have helped create.

“I hate the feeling of letting people down,” he said. “That’s the biggest regret I have and I have to apologise for that.” Arsenal’s manager was visibly crestfallen after the game. When he sat in front of the press, it was as despondent as he had been all season, which is hardly surprising given what the defeat meant in terms of the title race.

Arteta knew it was all over and he couldn’t hide his disappointment. His young team had pushed Manchester City’s well-oiled winning machine all the way, but in the end they fell just short.

Mathematically of course it is not done. We will have to wait until next weekend for that. But it was telling that amid his disappointment, Arteta already seemed to be looking to next season and what needed to be done to build a squad that was better equipped to last the pace.

  1. 'Cannot do what we did in the second half'
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    'Cannot do what we did in the second half'

    “We fought really hard to be in the position we are in and today [Sunday] we were in a critical moment to keep hoping and digging for that dream,” said the Arsenal boss. “When you have to play in these moments, you cannot do what we did in the second half. If a team is capable of doing that when it comes to the biggest stage, there’s a lot of things to analyse and think about because it cannot happen.”

    Arteta has always defended his team this season. When they lost at Everton in Sean Dyche’s first game in charge, he walked into the press conference room at Goodison Park and declared he loved his players more after the defeat than he had done before the game had got underway.

    But this time there was none of that. There was no defence offered. This time Arteta questioned his players and hinted that the second-half capitulation against Brighton could lead to changes ahead of next season.

  2. Not settling for second best
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    Not settling for second best

    Arsenal’s manager is not someone who will settle for second best. Speak to anyone who knows him or has worked with him and they will tell you that. Everything he does and works towards is about winning, and the way his team have failed to last the pace this season will now be at the forefront of his mind.

    What does he need to do to make the squad stronger? Where are the weaknesses? And who could come in to strengthen his hand and make the team better equipped for next season, when Champions League football will return to the Emirates? 

    Those will all have been questions that will have been swirling around in Arteta's head following the full-time whistle on Sunday.

  3. Worn down by a relentless City
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    Worn down by a relentless City

    Arsenal have shown this season how far they have come. Wins against Forest at the weekend and Wolves on the final day will leave them with 87 points. Only the Invincibles have amassed more in a single season for the Gunners during the Premier League era. But that is not enough if you want to overhaul this City side, as Liverpool have found out in recent seasons.

    To win the title nowadays, you need almost total perfection. Arsenal have been very good, great even. But not perfect. So how do they respond to this setback and move forward?

    Clearly, there is still plenty of work to be done on the squad. The players that are there now can still improve, as Arteta stated himself in the build-up to the Brighton game.

  4. 'We can be much, much better'

    'We can be much, much better'

    “We are still very far (from where I want),” he said. “We can be much, much, much better at a lot of things still. Huge margins. We can be much better in our build-up, attacking man-to-man situations, attacking open spaces, defending deep, set-pieces, we have huge margins to (make up) in terms of game management... We can be more ruthless to kill games.

    “There are a lot of things that we have to seek for improvement, because we don't have a single player who has reached his peak. Not one.”

    But it’s not just about improving players that are already there. The squad also needs to be bolstered by new additions if Arsenal want to compete with the very best that Europe has to offer.

  5. Another summer overhaul

    Another summer overhaul

    Arsenal are going to be very busy once again this summer, both in terms of incomings and outgoings. There is certainly a need to improve in midfield, which is why Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo are such bigger summer targets. A new centre-back is being targeted, as is a new full-back, and this has to be the summer that some proper cover arrives for Bukayo Saka on the right side of attack.

    It’s not so much about quantity now for Arsenal, it’s about quality. When you look at City’s squad, it is not huge, it’s just stocked with such a high level of players that the drop off is not significant when a regular starter does not feature. That is the ambition for Arsenal, and it’s what Arteta will be driving for this summer when the window opens. 

    But he and the club are aware that some tough decisions might need be taken over some existing members of the squad. Granit Xhaka, Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe are all hugely popular, but could bring in some significant funds that could be invested elsewhere as Arsenal look to raise the level of the squad. Folarin Balogun is also expected to generate big interest following his fine loan spell with Reims in France and could be sold as part of the expected overhaul.

  6. The Kroenkes must step up

    The Kroenkes must step up

    Arsenal have done a lot of hard work over the past couple of years to get to this point, and what they have done this season shouldn’t be underestimated. They have far exceeded expectations with a second-placed finish, even if the overriding feeling right now is disappointment. The key thing for the club is that they continue to build on the unexpected step forward they have taken this season.

    Arteta needs to be backed in the transfer market. Josh Kroenke was at the game on Sunday, and after the full-time whistle he came down from the directors box into the first-team changing room to meet with Arteta and the players.

    Kroenke and Arteta have a strong relationship, and the Spaniard will certainly have already been pressing the need to strengthen this summer during the talks the pair will have had over recent weeks.

    The transfer window represents a big opportunity for Arsenal. They have closed the gap significantly this season, but now they need to take the next step to show they are not just able to compete with the best in England, but also the best that Europe has to offer.