Arsenal 2017/18 Season Preview: A quest to rejoin the top four

Arsenal go into the new 2017/18 campaign with the task of getting themselves back into the top four after a hugely disappointing season last time out.

The Gunners achieved a record FA Cup victory, but missed out on Champions League football for the first time since Arsene Wenger took over at the North London side. Therefore the focus point this season must be getting back among Europe's elite.

However fans will be hoping that this season is much more than that, with a sustained Premier League title challenge being the thing everyone wants.

Wenger still at the club

The Arsenal manager's unresolved future last season had a terrible impact on his side's end to the Premier League campaign. The Gunners fell away badly, as they so often do, but never has there been so much negativity towards the Frenchman.

It was crucial that the club sorted out whether he was staying or not, and the answer to that was revealed when he signed a new two year deal back in May.

With Wenger's new contract there will have to be a new direction and focus. Ivan Gazidis uttered the words for a 'catalyst for change' but as the summer has passed by, change has been far and few between. The Gunners stubborn manager is still at the helm and there hasn't been enough during pre-season to suggest much will be different.

As usual Arsenal have found themselves at the centre of rumours surrounding their best players leaving, but as the window moves on it still doesn't look as though Mesut Ozil, and most importantly Alexis Sanchez, will be leaving.

The decision to risk losing them on a free next summer does represent a change of policy though, something which is different from the past when Wenger let the likes of Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri depart when their contracts were winding down.

Despite the possibility of letting them leave next summer, the fact that Ozil and Sanchez appear to be staying will be a huge boost in terms of a potential title challenge, and that is what Arsenal must aim for this season as they enter another season under Wenger's guidance.

New additions

Arsenal have added two players to their squad this summer, but there is a sense that they still have to bring in added bodies if they are to mount a proper challenge this season.

The club's first signing was free transfer Sead Kolasinac. The Bosnian has arrived from Schalke, and has impressed both as a centre back and as a left wing back since joining. For a man who didn't cost anything, it already looks to be a shrewd piece of business by Wenger after his goal in the Community Shield.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Alexandre Lacazette who cost Arsenal a club record fee, and much of the club's success this season will be based upon whether the former Lyon man hits the ground running.

He scored on his debut in pre-season before also netting on his first start at the Emirates Stadium. There are encouraging signs from his early performances, but he'll need to be even better when the Premier League starts.

There is a feeling that the team need more signings. Santi Cazorla's injury is a concerning one, whilst the fitness of many of Arsenal's midfielders is never certain. Therefore it is surprising that there haven't been any major links with a central midfielder this summer. One player the club have continuously been linked with is Thomas Lemar but that is a deal that doesn't look to be on the cards at the moment.

What to expect this season

It is tough to say exactly how Arsenal's season will go in 2017/18, but fans could probably expect more of what they've experienced in recent campaigns.

There will be optimisim surrounding the club's Community Shield triumph but they will have to do what they haven't done after their last two Community Shield wins and build on early season success.

The Gunners defeated Chelsea on penalties in this year's game at Wembley, and it should be a win that gives the team a much needed boost going into their opening Premier league fixture with Leicester.

However after that they don't have the most ideal start, having to travel to Stoke, a ground that hasn't always been good to them, and visit Anfield. Their start to the season won't be where things are determined however, with Christmas and New Year form key after their miserable run of games at that time of the year in 2016/17.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see another FA Cup run, but the Premier League is surely where the focus has to be. A certain European competition this season could dictate how their league form pans out though, and whether they have what it takes to make it back into the top four.

Europa League challenge

For the first time Arsenal will compete in the Europa League, and judging by how English club's have done domestically when playing regular Thursday night football in the past, it doesn't bode well.

It will be interesting to see what approach Wenger takes towards the Europa League. He has the potential to use the competition like he does the League Cup, and play a mixture of youth and experience, or he could approach it in the manner Jose Mourinho did when Manchester United won it last season.

Going all out to win it would probably mean adverse performances in the league, but as Mourinho showed it is an excellent chance of getting straight back into the Champions League.

There were some encouraging performances in pre-season from academy players though which could suggest Wenger decides to blood youth alongside his more important players. Arsenal should see the competition as ideal for bringing through players like Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock who have looked good since being promoted to the first team.

The Gunners are gearing up for their first season without Champions League football for over two decades, so it will be intriguing to see how they fare in 2017/18, with very different challenges on the horizon.