Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes the club are in a strong position to win the Premier League next season, despite the uncertainty surrounding the futures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
Wenger conceded that the final months of last season were the hardest of his Arsenal career. After losing to Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final on 27 Feb, the Gunners won just three of their final 15 matches of the season. Facing the Chinese media on the club's pre-season tour Wenger admitted that he had taken the team's collapse personally.
"Through November and December you could feel that the team had really taken off and could win everything. It was so close. The last part was certainly the toughest. Emotional, it was very difficult because we were on a low....I took full responsibility for what happened," he said.
But the Frenchman believes the club are in a better state than in May and has challenged his squad to draw strength from last season's disappointments.
"I believe that the real destiny of this team is now. It demands the strength of character that champions have. I believe we are perfectly good enough.
"What we have done last year, considering the age of the squad and the problems with injuries is, for me, a credit to the team. Part of the development of a young team is to improve and want the championship this year."
Despite limited activity in the transfer market thus far, Wenger believes new arrival Gervinho could have the same impact as Thierry Henry did.
"He has the qualities that are interesting because he has good movement off the ball, he is very quick and he can play up front, left and right. He can score goals, he can provide...so he can contribute greatly to the offensive efficiency of the team. He is a signing to excite the Arsenal supporters."
Wenger aims to add another central defender before the new campaign - with Gary Cahill, Christopher Samba and Phil Jagielka linked with the club -but he was quick to point out the impact a full fit Thomas Vermaelen could have on the team.
"I don't think we are weak defensively but we are an offensive team and sometimes that exposes our defenders", he added.
After Liverpool beat the Gunners to Stewart Downing's signature, reports today suggest Wenger is keen on signing Valencia winger Juan Mata.
Mata had been strongly linked with a move to Liverpool but with Downing heading to Anfield the Spain Under-21 starlet could be an ideal addition to Arsene Wenger's side.
But despite the uncertainty surrounding his long-term future at the Mestalla, Mata has refused to be drawn on where he'll be playing next season.
"Despite all the rumours, I have to stay calm and step away from all the speculation. I am well aware of the rumours but this is not the first summer I have had to deal with this so they do not worry me.
"My aim now is to make sure I am ready for the start of the new season and keep improving as a player. I want to win more trophies."
Meanwhile, Arsenal midfielder Denilson has been linked with a surprise move to Bolton Wanderer, with reports this morning suggesting that Wenger may try and include the Brazilian as part of a deal to take Gary Cahill to the Emirates.