As another season ends without a realistic challenge for the Premier League or Champions League, the FA Cup Final was a very welcome conclusion.

While important to bask in the pleasure of another trophy, part of the mind already drifts towards next season. Typical Arsenal performance schizophrenia saw early optimism was crushed by an awful start, before the late season run of form blurred the lines a little in assessing where are and what we need.

In the plus column, the team has finally shown courage and discipline in big games, and at times been uncharacteristically pragmatic. In addition, the injury situation has improved, and the emergence of Coquelin and Bellerin mean we have both sufficient numbers and potential long term candidates for key positions.

However, it’s not all sweetness and light.

Improvements ARE needed for the club to take the next step required to challenge Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern. The key ones are:

1) A quality defensively minded midfielder

This isn’t in any way a knock on Le Coq. His impact has been huge, and he has earned the right to be considered as a possible long-term solution at the base of our midfield. But in recent weeks he has looked tired, and expecting someone to maintain the level of performance we have seen over a 50+ game season just isn’t realistic. Without him our defence has been left totally exposed, and having the classy but molasses slow Arteta or the impetuous Flamini in that role is a recipe for disaster against quality opposition. Tactically the option of two holding would be useful as well.

I’d love the power, pace and technique of Monaco’s Kondogbia, but I’ve been saying that since 2012!

2) A proper wide man

There has been much to enjoy about the last four months of Arsenal’s season, but since the injury to Oxlade Chamberlain, the team has been painfully lacking in width. Our other wide options are round pegs in square holes and tend to drift centrally by default (Monaco, Chelsea and Swansea at home being  clear examples), and only Alexis and the Ox inspire confidence in beating their man one-on-one. Theo remains a question mark , both contractually and positionally, and even when stationed out wide isn’t really a creator.  With a lone striker system, delivery from out wide needs to be of a better quality than we’ve seen, and the ability to penetrate defensive systems with quick transition play or dribbling past opponents is vital to avoid the horizontal tippy-tappy to nowhere that sometimes afflicts our home performances, both ineffectual creatively and  leaving us vulnerable to the counter. Perhaps the recently linked Pione Sisto?

3) A genuine number one goalkeeper

Ospina has done well for the most part, but appears to be near his ceiling performance wise. Szczesny has most of the tools to be top goalkeeper, and it’s good that he’s committed his future to the club, but he still struggles for consistency. Everyone says Petr Cech…we shall see.

4) A clinical finisher

We all want a word class striker, but getting a lone front man who fits the bill will be tough. If we have to choose between attributes, it’s the penalty box assassin that this squad needs. An Ian Wright; a pre-injury Eduardo. Giroud is an excellent all-round front man, but is prone to ‘off days’ where the banjo and cows rear don’t meet. Welbeck’s finishing is erratic at best. Theo is a good finisher, but blows hot and cold in front of goal and struggles against teams that park the bus. Neither Sanogo or Akpom are ready. Podolski is a wonderful finisher, but seems to struggle in remembering that you have to go to the ball rather than waiting for it to come to you. There are so many home games where Arsenal apply the pressure late on but just lack the knack of taking the one or two chances that come to turn one point into three. Without wishing to go all ‘fox in the box’ about it, in the absence of the Diego Costa /Suarez/ Lewandowski we all want, a Solksjaer figure could be a big help in getting us over the line. Any suggstions?