Frenchman reckons he has a team ready to challenge for the Premier League in his new system
ARSENE WENGER believes Arsenal are in the right condition to get off to a flier in the new season.
Despite continuing uncertainty swirling around Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, boss Wenger is confident his team are shaping up as serious title contenders.
But is that confidence justified or is the Frenchman simply fooling himself again?
His main cause for optimism is the change of system which allowed the Gunners to win nine of their final ten games last season, culminating in victory in the FA Cup final against champions Chelsea.
Having persevered with a back-four throughout his managerial career, Wenger is now totally committed to the more cautious 3-4-3 formation.
The tactical switch has shored up a leaky defence, created a more clearly-defined role for the enigmatic Ozil and given Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal and Oxlade-Chamberlain greater responsibility.
But it has also left Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Hector Bellerin, Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere all wondering exactly where they are going to fit in.
Since that impressive FA Cup triumph in May, Arsenal have bolstered their squad with a £52million club-record deal for striker Alexandre Lacazette and have also landed wing-back Sead Kolasinac as a free agent.
So if they can sign £35m-rated Monaco winger Thomas Lemar before the transfer window closes, Wenger will be more than satisfied with his summer transfer business.
But big-name signings do not necessarily mean improved results — as Wenger knows all too well.
This time last year, he splashed out £90m on Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez.
Then he watched his side slump to fifth, their lowest Premier League finish in 21 years.
It could be argued that none of last season’s signings have yet lived up to expectations.
And Wenger is already warning it might take Frenchman Lacazette, 26, another two months to settle in to English football.
The French striker struggled to get involved during Sunday’s Emirates Cup defeat by Sevilla yet still scored Arsenal’s only goal.
Kolasinac, though, has made a positive impression on the Arsenal supporters, setting up three goals as part of a rampaging performance in the 5-2 win against Benfica at the weekend.
Wenger’s plan is for the flying wing-back, 24, to provide greater support down the left flank for Sanchez.
The problem is, nobody knows just how committed the unsettled Sanchez will be after being told he must see out the final year of his Arsenal contract.
Last season’s 30-goal top scorer is finally due to report for back for pre-season training today.
But the Chilean superstar, 28, is unlikely to be ready for the first Premier League game of the season at home to Leicester on Friday week.
Mustafi is also struggling to make that one, while skipper Laurent Koscielny is suspended for a fixture which Arsenal dare not lose.
Do not forget that last season’s crazy opening-day 4-3 defeat by Liverpool was followed by a 14-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.
But then the wheels came off just before Christmas with back-to-back losses at Everton and Manchester City.
Now as a result, Arsenal are without Champions League football for the first time this century and must contend with the added distraction of the Europa League on Thursday nights.
It means that Wenger will need to utilise all of his squad, even though he wants to offload a few fringe players this month.
Getting back into the top four is an absolute must for Arsenal.
But winning the title for the first time since 2004 still looks way beyond them.
Keep up to date with all the latest news, gossip, rumours and done deals in SunSport’s live transfer blog