Last season, Arsenal’s league campaign had moments of real positivity, but the year ended in the same manner it began, with a sense of disappointment.

Having clawed their way back into the fight for top four, Arsenal managed to take that race to the final day of the season. However, a number of disappointing results late in the campaign saw Arsenal lose fourth place to Tottenham Hotspur, their North London rivals securing qualification for next season’s Champions League at the expense of Mikel Arteta’s side.

While the ending of the season was a blow to the Gunners, many are wondering what comes next for the club. Put simply, finishing in the top four always felt a stretch too far, for a number of reasons, and the football odds reflected that throughout the season. In Antonio Conte, Tottenham have one of the best managers in the game, and the partnership of Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane up front is hard to match.

In truth, finishing in the top four was more of a necessity for Tottenham than it was for Arsenal, who have undergone something of a rebuild. The Gunners have cleared the decks over the last year and a half, with technical director Edu more than happy to cancel the contracts of any players who haven’t bought into Arteta’s vision.

Those departures have been replaced with young players, as Arsenal have sought to assemble a youthful core around which they can build a future. The likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Benjamin White have established themselves as regulars, while Martin Ødegaard is tipped to be the club’s next captain. With homegrown youngsters such as Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe starting regularly, Arsenal had the youngest average age in the Premier League last season, a year younger than any other side at 24.4.

It’s true that youth will only take Arsenal so far, and it’s expected that Arsenal will add more experience to their side in the coming transfer windows. Arteta is known to have the backing of the club’s hierarchy and, although the end of the previous season will be viewed as a missed opportunity, those inside the club will take positives from the campaign.

Arsenal dropped points through sloppy performances at times, but the Gunners were hurt by the lack of depth in their squad. They had no like for like replacement when Takehiro Tomiyasu was injured, and Kieran Tierney’s absence was also a big blow. While Mohamed Elneny deputised well when Thomas Partey was unavailable, Arsenal also had no real options in midfield, other than pairing the Egyptian with Granit Xhaka.

Arsenal took the route of revolution, rather than evolution, as they headed into last season. Those who didn’t have a future at the club were cast aside, and Arsenal gambled as they left themselves short for their season of transition. While the gamble didn’t pay off, Arsenal will now see themselves as in a strong position. When the young core of their side have been able to play consistently, they’ve performed at a good level.

With a relatively small playing squad, Arsenal now have the freedom to add quality players into the mix through the transfer window, and look to set to strengthen their side ahead of a real run at finishing in the top four this year. Qualifying for Champions League football would have been seen as a bonus last time out but, with the club’s reset well underway, this season it will be the expectation.