It's probably fair to say Arsenal haven't enjoyed the best of seasons this year. Despite a late surge back towards the top four, they're still out of all other competitions and not in with a shout of the league title either. There have been promising signs and memorable games, but it's fallen short of Arsenal fans' overall expectations.
Where to improve? The first point of this article (not in any particular order) concerns Olivier Giroud. The French striker has had quite a good debut season, and has certainly not been a flop. But the tall front-man lacks the mobility and quick feet surely required to lead the line for a club hoping to compete for the highest honours.
He will most likely enjoy an improved season next year, but that won't change the fact that he has limitations, physically and technically. Giroud is a fantastic second-choice who would offer great variety to Arsenal's attack, but not a first name on the team-sheet kind of striker. Lewandowski and Jovetic have been linked, and while they may seem like pipe dreams, they're exactly the type of players for whom Arsenal should be looking to break the bank in the summer.
A less glamorous signing also required is another defensive midfielder - or rather, *a* defensive midfielder. With Francis Coquelin failing to impress and make the break-through this season, the defensive duties in midfield have mainly been left up to Mikel Arteta, although Aaron Ramsey has helped out of late.
Arteta's legs clearly aren't going to last much longer, especially if he's playing every game for Arsenal. No other player in the squad has the awareness or composure he had which made him the best player suited to the role, so a new signing is surely required. However, the Gunners shouldn't look to sign a carbon copy of Arteta - what'd be preferable would be someone more capable of doing the hard running, as the Spaniard has often been left behind by quicker, more mobile players, leaving the defence exposed.
Arsenal's midfield has looked more balanced of late, thanks in part to the aforementioned Aaron Ramsey, who alongside Arteta has helped Arsenal strike a good equilibrium between defence and attack. The more cavalier Jack Wilshere had previously played next to Arteta, as well as playing in the hole behind Giroud.
Not only did Wilshere lack the defensive discipline to play in the role in which Ramsey is now excelling, but he wasn't a huge success behind the striker either. His final ball still leaves a bit to be desired, although that will surely improve. Arsene Wenger has the tough task of finding a way to fit in Wilshere without disrupting the balance of the side, which currently seems fine.
Another player who Wenger will have to try to get the best out of is Gervinho. The winger might as well get' Much-Maligned Ivorian' on the back of his shirt, so often is he described as such, but he's starting to hit a patch of form, and show the potential that convinced Wenger to part with £10.5m for.
His confidence is increasing at the moment, meaning his unpredictability - a key asset of his - is starting to pay dividends, but that confidence seems to be a fragile thing for the number 27. Wenger will have to find a way to keep his confidence high in order to ensure that he remains a dangerous weapon.
At the back, Bacary Sagna will probably remain as the right-back, as long as he convinces Wenger that he still has it in his legs. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have impressed together recently, so will likely continue as the central partnership. The only question mark lies over the left-back position.
It's a good problem to have - Kieran Gibbs and January signing Nacho Monreal have both impressed on the left for Arsenal, but Wenger will surely have to pick one of them as his first choice. A defence is much more solid with familiarity and consistency, and it may be that Wenger chooses Gibbs, so as not to 'kill' his development. Either way, he has a decision to make.
Behind the defence, there-s uncertainty over the metaphorical number one shirt. Wojciech Szczesny holds the actual number one, and was first choice until a dip in form saw Lukasz Fabianski brought back in from the wilderness. The older Pole has impressed in the short time he's been back - while clean sheets vs Bayern and Swansea were largely thanks to the team defending better, the 'keeper was solid when called upon.
The third option would be to sign a new goalkeeper - amusingly, Victor Valdes and Iker Casillas have both been linked - but with Wenger preferring the frugal approach and likely to spend money elsewhere (see above), it's most likely going to be a battle between the two Poles. Some might say Szczesny has more potential, but Wenger did once say Fabianski could be the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, provided he could improve his mental strength. If he really has done so, it could be an interesting battle.
The seventh point links in somewhat with the 2nd, but it's not quite the same issue. Abou Diaby was sadly consigned to 8-9 further months on the treatment table, and little hope remains that he'll forge a successful professional career. It's highly unlikely that anyone would sign the injury-prone midfielder, so it seems as if he'll remain at Arsenal until his contract runs out.
It's sad, but Wenger needs to give up hope that Diaby could return and sign someone to take his place in the squad. There's no point relying on him, as has been shown once again this season, and Arsenal can't suffer from his absences anymore. If he somehow does return to genuine fitness, via the under-21s and/or Carling Cup, then great. However, a replacement is crucial for Arsenal's squad depth.
Finally, the loanees: Andre Santos, Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson, Park Chu-Young and any others that I've forgotten. Sorry guys, but you're taking up space and money. Please just find new, permanent clubs. It's for the best.