To begin with, I was not, unfortunately, an Arsenal fan in 2004. In fact, I'd just gotten interested in soccer following the 2002 World Cup. I had heard of them, in an off-hand, back-of-my-mind sort of way, but I didn't know who they were.
It was some years later that I found Arsenal, partially from random Champions League viewing (the Barcelona matches) and partially from randomly reading my parents' copy of Fever Pitch, the excellent autobiographical tale of a life-long love of Arsenal, written by Nick Hornsby. Required reading for any Arsenal fan, in case you're not familiar with it.
As a fairly recently christened Gooner, I'd like to offer my perspective on this past season. Bare in mind that while I have a very well-rounded appreciation of the history of Arsenal football, and have watched most of the requisite highlights of days gone by, the emotional attachment that I have to Arsenal is a recent development, and is tied to the squads of the past three or four years.
Arsenal should consider this year as nothing but a rousing success. It's been noted elsewhere, but consider:
-Arsenal finished with more points than they did last year (72-70), finished with only two goals fewer (74-72), and conceded 12 fewer goals (49-37). I really like that last stat.
-Arsenal finished only two points back from Chelsea, despite spending 30m pounds less in wages, and only five points behind (an admittedly disappointing) Manchester City squad, which spent 60m pounds more than Arsenal.
-Arsenal lost the golden boot winner of not only last season, but also this season. And still managed to score only two goals fewer than last year.
All things considered, Arsenal had a very good year. There were endless doubts in the fall. They lost to Norwich City in one of the worst performances I've ever seen by Arsenal. They had some much ballyhooed misfortunes in various cup matches. There were, however, no humiliating performances like last year's loss to Manchester United; there were no second-half breakdowns. They got Jack Wilshere back, and then lost him again. And then it didn't matter. They rattled off 27 points out of the last 30, after all seemed lost when defensive ineptitude cost them the match against that team that G. Bale used to play for. They played stout, well-disciplined football down the stretch, and proved that this team was built not around one man, but around all of its players: smilin' Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta's steadfastness, Aaron Ramsey's motor and determination, Olivier Giroud's exuberance, Theo Walcott's pace, and the solid defense of Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs, and Bacary Sagna (most of the time, anyway...particularly that one time he played CB). Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson also put in good spells for Arsenal. Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky both had some great matches. Lukas Podolski had some great goals, and some very opportune ones as well; the jury is still out on him and Giroud, but I have confidence. I don't know about Gervinho. No one does, really.
Arsenal played football as well as you could possibly hope down the stretch. They now have money to spend. They should buy a good striker/center forward and maybe a deep-lying midfielder to complement Mikel Arteta in the pivot. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is only going to get better. Same with Gibbs, Ramsey, and Wilshere. This team is on the rise. I don't see any key component of this team leaving this summer. Which would be the first time since...?
That last point is crucial: No key players are leaving this summer. Look at the picture of Arsenal celebrating. I don't care what anyone says about them celebrating, what it says to me is this: These guys love this club, love their teammates, and want to stick around. They want to win trophies with Arsenal. It will happen.