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 By Tom Adams

Arsenal still a few steps away from mounting a serious title challenge

Arsenal haven't won the Premier League since they went unbeaten in 2003-04. With Arsene Wenger's contract entering its final season, could the Frenchman sign off by lifting the trophy again?

Here's a look at Arsenal's 2016-17 campaign ...

At a glance

An injury crisis, frustration in the transfer market and Arsenal haven't even played a match yet. Do you ever get the feeling you know exactly what's coming?

Quick predictions

Premier League: 4th
FA Cup: Semifinals
League Cup: Quarterfinals
Champions League: Round of 16

Transfer business

Oh dear. Things started off so well when Granit Xhaka was recruited for £35 million to strengthen the midfield but the failure to convince Leicester City's Jamie Vardy to join him prior to the start of the Euros was an ominous sign. So it has proved with Arsene Wenger struggling to get the work done which even he concedes is essential: Getting a new centre-back and a new striker.

The huge price escalation seen in the market this summer has not aided Arsenal's endeavours with only minor deals for Rob Holding and Takuma Asano being completed in the past two months. With a rumoured target like Gonzalo Higuain moving for £75m it is no wonder that the famously parsimonious Wenger is struggling to find acceptable deals.

With other league rivals spending big, Arsenal could not afford a summer of sitting still. But that is effectively what they have done so far -- even if that can, and must, change in the next three weeks. Now is not the time for transfer conservatism.

Granit Xhaka will add some much-needed grit in Arsenal's midfield.

Key questions

Can Arsenal finally put together a title challenge which lasts the duration? After collapsing again last season it is the biggest question hanging over Arsenal in what may well be Wenger's last campaign in charge. They have not fought for the title when it really matters, until the final stretch of the season, since going unbeaten in 2003-04.

The key aspect which feeds into this is whether Arsenal have made sufficient improvements since last season -- which although containing their best finishing position in 11 years, second, reconfirmed the insecurities and deficiencies which have reined in Arsenal's ambition in the second half of Wenger's reign.

Can Arsenal somehow cast off their tendency to self-destruct and display the winning mentality which has been absent for so many years? Can they free themselves from the psychological shackles of their annual disappointments in the Premier League?

On a more practical level, can they find the striker they have needed since Robin van Persie's departure in 2012 to take their game to another level? Creating chances was not a problem last season; finishing them was.

Really the question is: Can Wenger break the cycle of a decade and more and take Arsenal back to the top before he possibly departs? If so, there is a lot of work to do.

Potential pitfalls

The fact that Arsenal approach the start of the season with two of their three most senior centre-backs on the treatment table, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista, highlights a familiar pitfall. Arsenal have made a concerted effort to address the number of injuries in the squad -- adding new staff, employing new methods -- but it is a recurring problem which always seems to flare up at least once a season.

The other pitfall which lies in store every year is the danger of a collapse. So often Arsenal maneuver themselves into a decent position by the spring but then see their form dissipate -- often across multiple competitions at once. Wenger will be desperate to avoid a repeat again this year.

Another issue for the manager is how to use some of his most established players, who for one reason or another have uncertain positions. Aaron Ramsey was in the team of Euro 2016 thanks to his exploits with Wales but Arsenal still seem unsure of how best to use him. Jack Wilshere, injury permitting, will be looking for regular football again and Theo Walcott, the longest serving player, now wants to switch back to the wing from a central position, just when Arsenal need strikers.

These situations may require some tough decisions on Wenger's part.

Arsene Wenger has been criticised for a failure to mount a serious title challenge in recent seasons.

One to watch 

It could be a big season for Holding, the summer signing from Bolton Wanderers.

The aforementioned problems at centre-back mean he is almost certain to start the first game against Liverpool and with Calum Chambers unconvincing last season the youngster surely has a chance to make a name for himself whilst senior rivals are out.

When rank is pulled, he should have chances in cup competitions.

Tom is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @tomEurosport


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