Perhaps no club's operations during the summer transfer window are now as heavily scrutinised as Arsenal's, and yet manager Arsene Wenger remains stubborn in the transfer market. The Gunners have made just three signings this summer, and while the arrival of Switzerland's Granit Xhaka for £30m, according to Sky Sports, fills a hole in midfield, Takuma Asano and Rob Holding do not represent the marquee additions which are demanded on an annual basis at The Emirates Stadium.
To his credit the Frenchman has offloaded some dead wood in the form of Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta – who will be plotting against the club at Manchester City. Wojciech Szczesny will meanwhile spend a second campaign away from north London having agreed to return to Roma on loan.
But perhaps the most significant activity this summer has been away from the transfer market. Injuries to Per Mertesacker, Gabriel and Jack Wilshere as well as the international demands imposed on the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud this summer leaves Arsenal with a broken squad with the season having barely begun.
Fresh faces are required before the window closes on 31 August.
- Premier League: 2nd
- FA Cup: Sixth round
- League Cup: Fourth round
- Top scorer: Olivier Giroud (24)
Manager – Arsene Wenger
The 66-year-old enters what is increasingly likely to be his final season at Arsenal after 20 years at the helm. Nevertheless, his obliviousness to the gaping holes in his squad and to the slip in standards means the latter years of his tenure will always hurt his reputation. Wenger refused to take any blame for the club's failure to challenge for the title, instead basking in the glow of a second place finish secured on the final day.
The reality was that runners-up spot flattered Wenger's side, yet will have worked to justify his ponderous transfer policy which only saw Petr Cech arrive last summer. Having belatedly admitted the club started the season short of numbers, you can expect fresh faces to join before the 31 August deadline but there is a gradually building wall of evidence that the Strasbourg-born coach is losing his touch at the top level.
Key player – Mesut Ozil
With the demands imposed on Alexis Sanchez having severely impacted on his influence, it will be down to Ozil to keep Arsenal ticking in the early weeks of the season until the Chilean gets up to full speed. The Germany international finished last term with 20 assists and eight goals in all competitions and will be required to repeat those heroics once again.
The Liverpool opener may come too soon for Ozil, but Arsenal will see it as a significant victory if they can just retain the 27-year-old beyond the summer transfer window. Rumours have again surfaced that Real Madrid are planning to re-sign the playmaker and as Wenger targets new faces to freshen up his squad he would do well to ensure his current squad are happy with the club treading water.
The lack of a signing to illuminate the summer and the failure to address some regressing areas of the squad means Arsenal enter the new season with expectations as low as any of Wenger's previous 19 campaigns in charge. That may yet play into the hands of the club however, particularly with many of their rivals having made wholesale and high-profile changes.
IBT prediction - 4th
Despite all the obvious short-term and long-term problems, Arsenal have made a habit of proving their harshest critics wrong – predominantly with regard to finishing in the Champions League places. Betting against them on what could be Wenger's swansong would be foolhardy.