By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger has every intention of reinforcing his squad this summer but he believes that the natural development of his current players will be just as important in taking Arsenal to the next level.
The Frenchman has watched his side grow in stature over the last 12 months. Arsenal mustered 68 points in the Premier League last season and, if they beat Sunderland on Sunday, will have racked up 15 more this term - the equivalent of turning five defeats into victories.
Nonetheless, Arsenal's failure to hold on to their lead at the top of the Premier League, plus a cruel Champions League exit at Liverpool, has prompted calls for Wenger to spend lavishly this summer. Those voices have grown louder in the wake of Mathieu Flamini's decision to join AC Milan.
Speaking at the shareholders' Q&A at Emirates Stadium this week, Wenger identified the two areas he will look to strengthen and explained why evolution, not revolution, remains at the heart of his team-building policy.
"I will try to buy, maybe in the defensive area and one on the creative side of the game as well because we had some players, important players, who were out this year," said Wenger. "We want as well to bring new talent in on the creative side of our game.
"When there is a problem in England, people say 'you have to buy'. But you have to consider as well the development of your players internally.
"It isn't just down to money because we have bought players for nothing and they became world stars. It is as well down to the quality of the scouting, the quality of the work in training and the quality of the development in the players.
"I believe much more in that, working in an intelligent way to make a player improve.
"If we lose, people leave the game and say 'Wenger you must buy a centre forward' if we haven't scored, or they want a central defender if someone has made a mistake. But you have to accept that the team can be developed.
"This team made 68 points last year and this year 83. That is 15 points difference and in between we lost Thierry Henry and we lost many, many important players during the season. So you cannot say the team has not developed. Now the target for next season must be to make 90 or 92 points."
Before any of those points are up for grabs, Wenger has a busy summer planned. "How will I spend my summer? On the phone!" he laughed. "On the phone and on the football pitch.
"We are very busy at the moment with [Director] Ken [Friar], he knows that the holidays this year will be shorter than ever. I hope to find a few days but it will be very short."Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 8 May 2008