Charlie Nicholas believes Arsenal can win the title next season if they invest in Morgan Schneiderlin and Raphael Varane during the summer.
The Gunners welcome Liverpool to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon, when a win would see them edge ever closer to an 18th successive top-four finish in the Premier League. Whilst this is no doubt an impressive achievement, the fact remains they have only won the title on three of these occasions and not once since 2003/04.
There is a growing feeling, though, that Arsene Wenger is finally getting close to a squad capable of challenging for the crown again; indeed, they could move within four points of Chelsea if they collect three points this weekend, although their London rivals would still have two games in hand are look almost certain to be champions come May.
Nicholas, who won the League Cup with Arsenal in 1987 and is now a Sky Sports pundit, believes his former club are only two players away from becoming genuine contenders for the title. And he feels those players are Southampton’s midfield general Schneiderlin, and another France international in the form of Real Madrid centre-half Varane.
“I still think they’re two players away from being the real deal but I think Wenger is getting close to identifying who those players are,” the 53-year-old told Sky Sports. “He’s identified the actual areas that need addressing for the first time and that’s what makes me a lot more confident that, finally, he’s nailed down what the future of this club is.
“It’s the defence and the protection of the defence that need attention. I would like another holding midfield player to come in, perhaps a Schneiderlin type of player. There’s certainly a case for bringing in a big name at centre-half this summer. Ideally, if the situation arose, I’d like to go and get Varane from Real Madrid, that’s who I’d really love Arsenal to get.”
Schneiderlin was heavily linked with the Gunners and also their archrivals Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, and his desire to play in the UEFA Champions League would give Wenger an advantage should he renew his interest during the summer. The Saints are unlikely to let the 25-year-old France star leave on the cheap though, and rate him at £25million.
Varane, a one-time target for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, has been plying his trade in the Spanish capital since 2011 but isn’t always in their starting XI. If Los Blancos decide to sell the 21-year-old they are likely to ask for around £30milion, and Wenger can expect competition from Jose Mourinho who rated the defender as one of the best in Europe.