Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger has claimed that Arsenal are in a much stronger position than they were heading into last season. Reuters

Major Transfers in: Lukas Podolski (FC Cologne), Olivier Giroud, (Montpellier), Santi Cazorla (Malaga)

Major transfers out: Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad), Manuel Almunia (Watford), Ryo Miyaichi (Wigan, loan), Denilson (Sao Paulo, loan)

Key man: Santi Cazorla

Watch out for: Abou Diaby

Can do better: Gervinho

Last season's position: 3rd

Often derided for his stubbornness, this summer Arsene Wenger has realized the error of his ways that led to a disastrous start to their last Premier League campaign. A year ago, Arsenal clung stubbornly to Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, despite ample evidence that they would be departing. By the time the pair did leave, little time was left to use the funds to make adequate replacements as well as bolster a squad that was thin on ground.

As last season came to a close, Arsenal fans must have had a terrible sense of déjà vu. Club captain and undoubted talisman Robin van Persie was running into the final year of his contract with speculation flying that he would be the latest big name to depart the Emirates. When Van Persie stated he had no desire to sign a new deal, the fears of the Arsenal fans look to have been realized.

Van Persie is still there, but Wenger has already made provisions for his departure. The side was far too reliant on the Dutchman's goals last season and so in has come internationals Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud to help chip in.

Perhaps the most encouraging signing, though, is that of Santi Cazorla. The Spain international is capable of providing the kind of invention to cut through a defense that was sorely missing at times last season following the loss of Fabregas and Nasri. Able to play in the middle or out wide, Cazorla may take time to settle but he should become a real favorite at the Emirates.

Doubts still remain about Van Persie's future, however, and the sooner they are resolved the better. It would be a big risk to keep the 29-year-old, given he could go leave for nothing next season, though his quality makes that a tempting gamble. Whether Arsenal fans, who booed him at the weekend, are prepared to forgive and forget remains to be seen.

Whatever the decision, it must be made soon as further reinforcement would be needed. Even if they stay, Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh are not reliable back-ups for Giroud, who may take some time to settle himself.

In midfield Arsenal look strong. Alex Song, providing interest is fought off form Barcelona, has developed into a quality, dynamic presence with the ability to dominate in the middle of the field. With Spanish duo Mikel Arteta and Cazorla, Arsenal should also have plenty of creativity. Abou Diaby has massive upside if he can stay fit following a horrendous run of injuries and with Jack Wilshere due back in October, Wenger could have plenty of options.

For so long their most glaring weakness, it is some years since Arsenal fans could have gone into a season having so much faith in their back line. Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny appeared to be blossoming into a top-class central defensive partnership last term, while in goal Wojciech Szczesny has the ability, not to mention the self-confidence, to become one of the league's top keepers. At full-back Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs also offer hope of solidity and drive going forward.

As is the case with the club as a whole, the destiny of that duo's season is heavily dependent on fitness. The Gunners have had a wretched injury record in recent years and if they are to make a long-awaited return to challenging for the title then that has to change.

With games to come against Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in the first six fixtures of the new season, Arsenal will need to get into their groove quickly. But if they do, then a Champions League place may be the least of their expectations.