Premier League preview - Arsenal
Premier League: 3rd
FA Cup: Fifth Round
League Cup: Quarter-finals
Champions League: Round of sixteen
Having finished last season strongly to sneak into automatic qualification for the Champions League group stages, Arsenal fans had reason for cautious optimism ahead of this campaign.
In early July however, the Gunners' preparations for the new Premier League season were thrown into turmoil when last year's talisman, the brilliant Robin van Persie, announced that he was not willing to sign a new contract at the Emirates Stadium. Exasperated by the lack of ambition shown by the club, van Persie was immediately linked with a host of clubs, most notably Juventus, Manchester City and Manchester United, all keen to take advantage of the Dutchman being in the final year of his contract.
At the time of writing, van Persie remains on Arsenal's squad list but he seems to be destined to make a move before the summer transfer window closes at the end of this month.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was keen to pre-empt any decision by van Persie to leave and drafted in French striker Olivier Giroud as a replacement. Giroud scored 24 goals in 40 appearances for Montpellier last season, and played a vital role in his team securing the Ligue 1 title.
The £12 million signing is likely to spearhead a new-look Arsenal attack. The speedy Lukas Podolski has also arrived in North London. Podolski, who is still only 27-years-old, has been a prolific frontman for unfashionable German outfit FC Köln and the German national team but it will be interesting to see how quickly he settles into Premier League football.
Throw Spanish trickster Santi Cazorla into the mix and, potentially, the Gunners have an all-new frontline for the new season - one to match or better most of their rivals.
The same old problems do not appear to have been resolved at the other end of the pitch. Wenger has decided not to add to his current array of defenders - an assessment that may worry some fans. Arsenal conceded nine more goals than Everton (seventh-placed) and Liverpool (eighth) last season and remain woefully short of quality defensive cover.
That problem is especially severe with the full-backs. Right back Bacary Sagna is continuing his recovery from a long-term injury, leaving only centre-back Johan Djourou and youngster Carl Jenkinson able to cover in his absence. A move for Gregory van der Wiel has so far failed to materialise. As a result it will not be a surprise if Arsenal continue to ship too many goals this season.
With Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea all looking strong going into the campaign, Arsenal's best chances of impressing will most likely come in the cups. Knockout progress was disappointing last year and the Gunners remain without a trophy since 2005. Some silverware this season would be welcomed but, with questions still to be answered about the team's defensive capabilities, it will be a tough ask - with or without their magnificent captain.
Manager - Arsene Wenger: Wenger should be given credit for turning around Arsenal's season last year after what was a disastrous beginning. He has felt it necessary to spend more this summer than usual, but has arguably lost his untouchable status and another slow start might see him under pressure.
Key signing - Santi Cazorla: A signing widely welcomed by supporters, the ex-Malaga man will provide Arsenal with more intelligence going forward. Technically excellent, he will be expected to hit the ground running.
Key sale - Potentially Robin van Persie: The Gunners have not lost any key men as of yet but van Persie is expected to be on his way out soon - possibly to Manchester United. After losing Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas last season, Arsenal must begin to perform to a higher level if they are to justify their economic strategy in footballing terms.
Keep an eye out for: Abou Diaby The imposing central midfielder is back fit after being plagued by injury for several seasons. His athleticism will be a boost for Arsenal's spine and, if he can stay fit (a big if), he could become a key man.
Join the discussion at OLBG.com