Arsenal are “a long way off” in the Premier League title race and will lose Alexis Sanchez on their way to a sixth-place finish, according to Paul Merson.
The Gunners slipped out of the top four for the first time under Arsene Wenger in 2016-17, with mid-season struggles leaving them fifth.
They now have no Champions League on the agenda, with Thursday night football in the Europa League added to the workload.
Merson feels that will be difficult to handle and has not seen enough on the recruitment front to suggest that Arsenal will be taking positive steps forward any time soon – despite landing the Community Shield with a penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea on Sunday.
The former Gunners star told Sky Sports when piecing together his predictions for 2017-18: “Arsenal 6th: I think they're a long way off still, I really do.
“I don't see Alexis Sanchez staying at Arsenal by September, and when you look at the rest of the team, I don't see it happening.
“Alexandre Lacazette is a good player, but not everybody else was going after him. If you're good and playing in France, PSG will be after you, or Monaco, who lost a lot of their players. That's my worry. He plays that one-two, which will be good for Arsenal, but he's not going to beat three players.
“People talk about Arsenal in the Europa League, maybe suggesting they won't bother trying in it, but Arsene Wenger still has to fly out somewhere on the Wednesday, won't get back until the Friday. It is still tiring.
“Therefore, I would tell Steve Bould to be in charge of the Europa team, and Wenger could work at home with the Premier League team.”
Arsenal have made just two additions to their ranks, with Sead Kolasinac joining Lacazette at Emirates Stadium.
Both have shown signs of promise, but another quiet window has done little to raise expectation levels.
Instead, much of the summer in north London has been spent fending off talk of interest from afar, with Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Lucas Perez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all generating exit rumours.
They remain on Arsenal’s books for now, though, and will be looking to help the club make a positive start to their Premier League campaign when the 2017-18 season kicks off with a home date against Leicester on Friday.