Saracens fan Ben Ireland says there is room for improvement as he assesses the Men in Black's season so far

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2012 has been and gone for Sarries, with no trophies to show for their efforts. 

A lack of try bonus points and a cruel last-minute home defeat to Leicester saw us forced into an away semi-final against the same side, where we came up short.

Our Heineken Cup campaign petered out miserably at the hands of the Clermont juggernaut.

But doom and gloom certainly won't be the watch-words as the club moves into 2013. Firstly, the fact we're in a position to bemoan a lack of trophies says a lot. 

The past year has certainly been one of consolidation rather than regression.

If you look at a number of the club's big objectives, the last few months have been a time of significant and exciting progress.

Nouveau Sarries: Running Rugby

All the talk at the end of last season was about how limited Sarries had become.

Teams had sussed out their territory/pressure tactics and realised they didn't have the firepower in attack to chase a game.

A new attack coach in Kev Sorrell and two of the league's more potent runners in Joel Tomkins and Chris Ashton gave the opportunity to address the problem.

The progress has been slow but steady.

We're still very safety-first in our own territory, and we still tend to run with prescribed patterns rather than on instinct.

Our try-scoring count has been low, but that has been more about imprecision than lack of intent.

With increasing familiarity, and as the distribution skills of Barritt and Farrell continuing to improve, allied to the sheer class of Hodgson, Brits and Goode, the signs are good for more development as the grounds get harder in the Spring.

Casting the Net: the Academy

In these salary-capped days, where squads piled high with internationals are no longer possible (cue ironic laughs), the blooding of young players into the squad is ever-more important.

Sarries have done this better than most, with their general policy of rotating and resting players to keep the whole squad fresh and ready.

The likes of Will Fraser, George Kruis and Jacko Wray have come on massively in the last 12 months and will soon be knocking on Stuart Lancaster's door.

Hopefully this process will continue into 2013, with the likes of George, Taylor, Spencer and Ransom needing game time as other clubs come hunting.

Brick-laying: Maintaining our Standards

As the attacking focus has grown, and more and more players have been seeing significant game-time, it's been crucial not to let our foundations slip.

The return to form of Stevens and Joubert, and the emergence of Vunipola and Kruis, have ensured that our set-piece is still as strong as ever.

Thanks to our nomadic existence this season we're in no danger of losing our wolfpack mentality when away from home; certainly the experience at Thomond Park will have taught us a lot.

Meanwhile, under Paul Gustard's masterful tutelage, our defence just gets better and better.

The World Stage: England Breakthrough

There are plenty of similarities between the development of this England side and Sarries.

The Six Nations saw a focus on defence, set-piece, kicking, and building camaraderie and a winning mentality.

After the South Africa tour, two things were clear: they needed to increase their physicality, and find some more potency in attack.

They found both in the magnificent win over New Zealand. Alex Goode had a typically wonderful series of games and Farrell and Barritt hit back after some heavy criticism.

The latter in particular should be a cornerstone for the side as they approach 2015.

And my outside picks for that RWC squad: Kruis, Fraser, Spencer.

On Our Own Two Feet: Progress off the Field

The impending arrival of Allianz Park is the biggest step forward.

Having control over matchday and non-matchday income is the starting point for all the financially stable Premiership clubs.

The international brand-growing has contributed, no doubt, to the record-breaking sponsorship deal with Allianz.

Meanwhile the publicity around London is as strong as ever, as we look to fill both of our London homes (Copthall and Wembley) over the next two years.

The future is certainly looking bright.

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