Rarely these days do Arsenal not begin the season under a transfer cloud, and ahead of the 2017-18 campaign the vibe is no different around The Emirates Stadium. The club's operations during the off-season have been uneven, at best, and there is no certainty whether by the end of the summer window they will have lost ground of their rivals, or closed the gap.
Nine players will start the season having entered the final 12 months of their respective deals including Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, who despite promises there future would be sorted this summer are no closer to committing their futures to the Gunners. Arsene Wenger is adamant neither player will be sold, but Arsenal fans have heard that before.
In-comings have also been few and far between too, with a record acquisition of Alexandre Lacazette the only injection of cash made at Arsenal this summer. The solid Sead Kolasinac has meanwhile arrived on a free but once again there is a perception they have done the bare minimum when a spending spree is required.
At the time of writing their squad is among the strongest in the division - particularly in the attacking third - but there are too many uncertainties lurking regarding key individuals, while there is also the club's chequered injury record to take into account. Their absence from the Champions League could ensure greater focus on the Premier League, where a top four finish must against be regarded as the minimum requirement.
Premier League: 5th
FA Cup: Winners
EFL Cup: Fifth round
Champions League: Round of 16
Manager - Arsene Wenger
Less than a week after claiming a seventh FA Cup as manager, Wenger agreed a two-year extension with Arsenal to extend his run as the long-serving coach in England into a third decade. However, as last season often highlighted the Frenchman's standing in north London has taken a substantial and perhaps irreparable hit leading to a series of protests before, during and after matches as they continue to tread water.
Though Wenger's record as the most successful ever overseas coach in the Premier League will often see him given the benefit of the doubt he has work to do to convince the mounting number of skeptics. His tame response to the high number of players out of contract, the failure to land necessary transfer targets and ponderous tactical approach means he still has work to do to justify his retention.
Though with the club remaining steadfastly committed to the 67-year-old and giving him unprecedented power and influence at the helm, it is hard to see any amount of criticism from the stands making a difference. Wenger is a manager who is stubborn regarding his key principals and methodology, admirable ideals which represent half the problem.
Key player - Alexandre Lacazette
It may have taken Wenger five years to sign a genuine replacement for Robin van Persie, but in Lacazette they have acquired one of the outstanding forwards in Europe entering his prime years, proof that even without Champions League football Arsenal still represent a attractive destination. And at £52.7m, in the current climate, he is more than good value.
If the Frenchman can replicate even half of the success enjoyed by fellow-countryman Nicholas Anelka and Thierry Henry then he will be considered a superb investment. And having plundered 113 goals in the last four seasons - albeit in Ligue 1 with Lyon - the signs that he can fill the void left by Sanchez, or indeed supplement him, are good.
Arsenal may have endured their toughest campaign for over two decades last season yet expectations have never been higher. And should Sanchez and Ozil remain then supporters may even feel that demands their side challenge for the title are not unrealistic.
Lacazette will provide goals but questions remain over whether there is the necessary depth of quality underneath the record signing. Last season suggested that scratch below the surface and Arsenal are no-more cut out for a title bid than any side in mid-table. Their temperament remains a cause for concern and could yet undo any position of comfort.
IBT prediction - 4th
With full attention on the Premier League and their rivals having failed to add adequately, Wenger can assist in re-establishing his standing among Arsenal fans by leading them back to the top four - with or without Sanchez. A title bid should however be beyond them.