The English Premier League season commences in just under a week whilst UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup qualification proceedings have recently begun. It is set to be another thrilling season of European football as the calibre and efficiency of all teams and leagues drastically increases, particularly with the influence of foreign investors.
Arsenal concluded their preseason exhibition with another disappointing loss, this time to Portuguese giants SL Benfica. The 2-1 defeat follows the news that the Gunners' encounter Italian giants Udinese in a tough UEFA Champions League qualification round late next week.
It has not been a promising Summer for Arsene Wenger and his squad. Speculation regarding captain Cesc Fabregas and key play maker Samir Nasri has dominated headlines with the pair both expressing a desire to depart the Emirates.
Fabregas's inevitable move to boyhood club Barcelona appears imminent with the clubs now merely arguing on the matter of a final fee. Nasri on the other hand has been unable to agree on a contract extension with the Gunners' with reports suggesting the Frenchman was unhappy with both the wages and Arsenal's lack of success.
Nasri is still yet to resign ensuring the 24-year-old enters 2011/2012 on his final Arsenal year but fortunately the midfielder should grace the Red and White despite interest from Manchester United and Manchester City.
Furthermore Arsenal secured just two victories during their preseason campaign. Success over Malaysia XI and FC Cologne were promising before becoming marred by stalemates with Boca Juniors and New York Red Bulls' in their own Emirates Cup, which was not retained by the Gunners' for the first time since 2008. Wenger's men also drew with Hangzou Greentown.
However the most repelling news for Arsenal fans will be the fact that it has been an quiet transfer window for Arsene Wenger. With now six seasons without silverware lingering in North London, the Frenchman was expected to enforce some major changes into his youthful squad.
Yet so far the Frenchman has only sold veteran left back Gael Clichy for £7 million to Manchester City and loaned Samba star Denilson to Sao Paulo whilst acquiring Ivorian striker Gervinho for £10.5 million from French champions OSC Lille. Despite the somewhat fragile defensive line and the heavily criticized lack of depth at midfield, Wenger is still yet to implement transfers.
However there is over three weeks in the transfer window remaining enabling the Arsenal manager more then enough time to secure quality services. Furthermore Wenger does have talented players to his disposal, predominantly young quality which has developed rapidly in recent years.
With Manchester City and Liverpool's big spending during the Summer along with the commanding dominance of Manchester United and Chelsea, many have written Arsenal off as Premier League contenders, however one can never properly do this with Arsenal.
As the Gunners' enter 2011/2012, just what does Wenger have in mind for their starting XI?
BleacherReport predicts the official starting XI for Arsenal in 2011/2012. Take a look.
Arsenal Appearances: 25
2010/2011 statistics: 24 appearances and nine clean sheets
National appearances: four
The Polish shot stopper blossomed during the second half of 2010/2011 as injuries to Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Almunia and Vito Mannone enabled Szczensy to acquire a deserved first team opportunity. A highly touted prospect who had thrived in the Arsenal youth and reserves, the 21-year-old did not look back, enforcing his presence and securing the Arsenal number one role.
The lingering goalkeeper problem that had haunted Arsenal in recent years has been somewhat eradicated thanks to Szczesny, who is tipped to become one of the best keepers in World Football. Boasting sufficient experience and an appealing desire to succeed at Arsenal, the Poland international is set to receive the Arsenal first choice keeper role in 2011/2012.
Arsenal Appearances: 176
2010/2011 statistics: 43 appearances and two goals
National appearances: 30
The renowned Frenchman has ensured the first choice right back role since arriving at the Emirates in 2007 from French outfit Auxerre. A reliable, consistent and intelligent presence, Bacary Sagna's contributions cannot be faulted despite the little credit he receives.
Sagna was part of the PFA Team of the Year in 2010/2011 and will be eager to continue his claim as the best right back in World Football this campaign. The France international is still yet to secure silverware success at Arsenal and his efforts will be pivotal for Arsenal's success.
Arsenal Appearances: 115
2010/2011 statistics: 37 appearances and one goal
National appearances: 26
The Swiss giant was one of Arsenal's best players during 2010/2011 as the defender returned from a severe knee injury that tainted his 2009/2010 campaign to just one appearance. An imposing and composed presence, Djourou's promise came to fruition as he formed an impressive partnership with Laurent Koscielny during the early stages of 2011.
Wenger has been in talks with the likes of Gary Cahill and Christopher Samba but it is likely the Switzerland international will take a large role in the Arsenal defensive line. Djourou possesses the experience, leadership and ability to relieve the Gunners' of their occasional defensive frailty however there are still lingering positional and focus problems which Djourou has a tendency to convey.
Arsenal Appearances: 50
2010/2011 statistics: five appearances
National appearances: 32
Arsenal's defensive leader was restricted to a mere five appearances last term due to a persistent Achilles injury. However the Belgian has returned and is fully fit ensuring his renewed presence will be like a new signing for Wenger.
A tough, tenacious defender whose presence was severely missed last season, many believe Vermaelen has the ability to become one of the best centre halves in World Football. None the less his efforts will be integral should Arsenal find success in 2011/2012.
Arsenal Appearances: 50
2010/2011 statistics: 20 appearances
National appearances: Two
With Gael Clichy departing to Manchester City, the left back role is up for grabs with Kieran Gibbs and Armand Traore both vying for the role. England international Kieran Gibbs has become the heir to the position after deputizing Clichy for several seasons now.
Despite Traore's impressive efforts in preseason, Gibbs is the favoured choice by Wenger after developing solidly without the blessing of many opportunities. A strong and attacking left back, many are concerned over the lingering defensive errors the youngster has a tendency to make.
However the Englishman is a promising prospect and Arsene Wenger is a genius at establishing left backs and many believe Gibbs can emulate Ashley Cole.
Arsenal Appearances: 158
2010/2011 statistics: 42 appearances and five goals
National appearances: 24
The efficient and consistent presence of Alexandre Song, who has become one of the Premier Leagues' best defensive midfield, will have a commanding role in the Arsenal midfield. A qualified leader of the Gunners' young squad, Song has enjoyed a solid preseason and will be eager to continue his growing reputation in 2011/2012.
The presence of Emmanuel Frimpong and Henri Lansbury will ensure the Cameroon international is kept on his toes but Song has the ability to erode the sometimes physically weak Arsenal midfield.
Arsenal Appearances: 50
2010/2011 statistics: 49 appearances and two goals
National appearances: Five
The shinning light in Arsenal's eventually dark season. The teenager enjoyed his first full season in the Arsenal first team and concluded the season as the PFA Young Player of the Year and the Arsenal Player of the Year.
An intelligent, energetic midfielder who contributes strongly defensively, Wilshere's creativity and movement will be vital particularly with Cesc Fabregas's certain departure. A natural leader and now an England regular, Wilshere will be eager to continue his rapid development in 2011/2012.
Arsenal Appearances: 124
2010/2011 statistics: 49 appearances and fifteen goals
National appearances: 22
Samir Nasri enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2010/2011 despite his form diminishing during the latter stages of the campaign, coinciding with Arsenal's horrific demise. The Frenchman's expected ability blossomed as the dynamo became an immense attacking threat and was rewarded with a place in the PFA Team of the Year.
Nasri's lack of loyalty and inability to resign with the Gunners' has posed as a worry but none the less the midfielder is set to play for Arsenal in 2011/2012. Furthermore with Cesc Fabregas's certain departure, it enables Nasri to move into the Spaniard's role, a more preferred central opportunity.
The 24-year-old can now become the focus point of the Arsenal midfield and attack and Gunners' fans hopes that Nasri both continues his impressive form and resigns for Arsenal.
Arsenal Appearances: N/A
2010/2011 statistics: 53 appearances and 18 goals (OSC Lille)
Nationality: Ivory Coast
National appearances: 25
The big name Summer signing for Arsene Wenger. The Ivorian striker is a quality acquisition for the Gunners' and enters the English Premier League in great form and with a clinical reputation. The 24-year-old was outstanding last season as his efforts were integral to OSC Lille securing their first French Ligue 1 title in 57 years and the Coupe de France.
An energetic and efficient forward, Gervinho desperately wanted to arrive at the Emirates and many believe the Ivorian will thrive under Wenger's style of play. Gervinho has easily been one of Arsenal's best during the preseason and is touted as one to watch in 2011/2012.
Arsenal Appearances: 172
2010/2011 statistics: 38 appearances and 13 goals
National appearances: 17
Provided the Englishman can maintain fitness, fans will be relishing the opportunity to witness Theo Walcott. The speedster enjoyed a strong campaign in 2010/2011 despite a heavy influence from injuries. The 22-year-old is a vital part of the Arsenal attack and now with a large amount of experience and a return to fitness after a preseason injury, Walcott can make a devastating impact.
The former Southampton winger has added a more clinical edge to his attacking foray, as highlighted with his 13 goals last season. Furthermore with rumours the Englishman could be moved a more central striking roles this campaign, 2011/2012 is destined to be the season of "Theo".
Arsenal Appearances: 230
2010/2011 statistics: 33 appearances and 22 goals
National appearances: 56
Robin van Persie is set to be Arsenal's new captain in 2011/2012 and if the Dutchman remains fit for majority of the season, the Gunners' will have a strong chance of eradicating their silverware drought. There is no denying the Dutchman is one of World Football's most creative and lethal strikers with only ongoing injuries concerns restricting the 28-year-old.
Van Persie found immense form last season scoring 20 goals in 2011. With leadership and an even bigger attacking responsibility now with Fabregas's certain departure, the Netherlands' international should thrive ensuring defenders are in for a rough ride.
Fitness will of course have a major influence on the Arsenal line up but currently the Gunners' will enter 2011/2012 relatively injury free although there are concerns over some squad players and their future. With seven places on Wenger's bench, it will be a compacted substitutes line but one that possess immense calibre and depth.
Goalkeeper: Lukasz Fabianski
The Polish keeper enjoyed an emphatic first half of 2010/2011 in which the 26-year-old came to promise, conveying immense maturity and the ability Wenger saw but little else did. Unfortunately a season ending elbow injury was succumbed to in January curtailing his rise.
However the Poland international is fit and firing and will be applying immense pressure on countryman Wojciech Szczesny to perform.
Defender: Laurent Koscielny
The Frenchman enjoyed a stellar debut season last campaign and despite some early concerns, Koscielny emerged as a consistent and tough defender who has the ability to become one of the Premier League's best defenders.
The 25-year-old now possess sufficient Premier League experience ensuring both Djourou and Vermaelen will have to maintain form or risk losing their place to a more than capable centre half.
Defender: Armand Traore
The Frenchman has returned from an injury tainted loan spell with Juventus but the left back has enjoyed a strong preseason and is expected to be a solid contributor in 2011/2012. The 21-year-old is a versatile, quick and energetic presence who will apply strong pressure on Kieran Gibbs to perform.
Midfielder: Aaron Ramsey
The Welshman is officially fully fit after returning late last season from his horrific leg break in February 2010. With Fabregas's certain departure, Ramsey is expected to step up and thrive as one of the main play makers in the Arsenal attack.
The 20-year-old is touted as one of the best young midfielders in World Football and few Arsenal fans will disagree.
Midfielder: Tomas Rosicky
The experienced Czech's contribution and creativity alongside his experience will be vital for the Gunners' particularly if injuries begin to arise. An intelligent and reliable midfielder, Rosicky will be eager to make amend for a somewhat disappointing 2010/2011.
Forward: Marouane Chamakh
The Moroccan began his Arsenal career in superb style, becoming one of the Gunners' best players during the first half of 2010/2011 before lapses in fitness and form diminished his reputation to the Arsenal fans.
However Chamakh possess the experience to improve on last seasons errors and the 27-year-old's imposing height and tireless work rate will be an important factor to the Arsenal attack.
Forward: Andrei Arshavin
The Russian magician came under heavy criticism last season and many expected an Arshavin departure this Summer. However the 30-year-old is still at the Gunners' and has enjoyed a solid preseason.
Arshavin has the ability to tear apart the best defences in England and if his attitude and work rate are kept onside expect a strong season from the dynamo.
There is an impressive amount of young depth in the squad and provided they are not sent on loan spells than their contributions could have a telling factor in Arsenal's season. So often injuries decimate the Arsenal squad but fans will hope that Wenger's has enough calibre at his disposal to mitigate the casualties.
Abou Diaby (fitness concerns)
However there some players with fragile Arsenal futures. Several have been linked with moves away form the Emirates this Summer and the transfers could materialize in the coming weeks.
None the less, is this the Arsenal starting XI for 2011/2012?