Arsenal remained in the Premier League title chase for the majority of last season before falling slightly off the pace down the stretch. The fourth-place finish was still good enough to qualify for the Champions League, setting up another busy season for the Gunners.
Expectations for the new campaign are still up in the air. A lack of attacking depth was the difference between them and the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool. It's one area Arsene Wenger must focus heavily on this summer, with action likely to pick up after the World Cup.
Arsenal face an abbreviated summer slate with just four scheduled friendlies to prepare for the new season. Let's take a look at a complete list of announced fixtures and preview what will be a quick but important preparation period.
2014 Arsenal Preseason Schedule
|Date||Time (BST)||Time (ET)||Opponent||Location|
|July 19||3 p.m.||10 a.m.||Boreham Wood||Meadow Park|
|July 26||10 p.m.||5 p.m.||New York Red Bulls||Red Bull Arena|
|Aug. 2||4:20 p.m.||11:20 a.m.||Benfica||Emirates Stadium|
|Aug. 3||4:20 p.m.||11:20 a.m.||Monaco||Emirates Stadium|
Outlook for Summer Friendlies
Every four years, players covet the opportunity to represent their home nations in the World Cup. The marquee international tournament complicates the summer for club sides, however, which are looking to complete transfers and start building chemistry for the new season.
Last year, Arsenal played seven preseason fixtures, including a four-match Asian Tour. This year's schedule is less crowded and won't require nearly as much travel. A trip across the Atlantic to face the New York Red Bulls is the only major travel.
The friendly schedule starts just six days after the World Cup final. Given the quick turnaround for Gunners who make deep runs with their national teams in Brazil and the level of competition in Boreham Wood, only fresh players are likely to feature right away.
In turn, there will be a higher level of importance on the three remaining friendlies as Wenger has to make quick judgments on certain players. At the same time, he'll be trying to work in any new acquisitions to get them acclimated with the system.
One player who's seemingly going to get his chance to prove he belongs is Joel Campbell. After loan stints with Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiacos as well as a strong showing at the World Cup with Costa Rica, the 22-year-old forward appears ready for an extended look at Emirates Stadium.
Dave Kidd of The Mirror passed along comments from Campbell after his national side advanced to the knockout rounds:
I believe I'll be returning to Arsenal for next season.
It's been a beautiful World Cup for Costa Rica. It's gone very well. Qualifying first in a very difficult group is important, but now we have to focus on the last 16.
Arsenal News provided remarks from Wenger, who confirmed the plan was to give him an opportunity to shine during the preseason:
Arsène Wenger: "Joel Campbell will begin the pre-season with us, we've had to go slowly with him, he's a different player"— Arsenal News (@_arsenal__news) June 25, 2014
Longtime Arsenal star Thierry Henry will be waiting for the club in New York as he continues to showcase solid form for the Red Bulls. Tim Cahill, who scored a highlight-reel goal for the ages at the World Cup for Australia, also features on the Major League Soccer squad.
How many key signings does Arsenal need to contend?
After that match, the Gunners return home for the annual Emirates Cup to close out the preseason schedule. Valencia, Benfica and Monaco are the other competitors this season. Arsenal is slated to face off with the latter two clubs during the two-day event.
One week after facing Monaco to finish the preseason, Arsenal will face off with Manchester City for the Community Shield. So it's a quick turnaround after a busy offseason.
By the time the Gunners face off with City, there should be a better idea of what to expect this season. The supporters are obviously hoping there are at least a couple key additions by that point in order to boost the club's trophy hopes.
Former Arsenal defender Tony Adams isn't a believer. He told Charles Perrin of The Express that another fourth-place finish is about the best Arsenal can hope for next season:
However I don't think they will win the title as Chelsea and Manchester City are blowing the league apart and Man Utd. will come again.
I don't think Arsenal will finish any higher than 4th at the moment which is a little bit sad, but they needed to win the FA Cup because they had stick from the fans.
Once the dust settles at the end of the transfer window, it might be an accurate assessment. A couple notable additions by Wenger could change the outlook, though.
Whichever top club is able to settle in the quickest and get off to a strong start is going to hold a clear advantage because it's common to come out sluggish in a World Cup year. Arsenal have to use their limited preseason matches wisely in an attempt to become that team.