London: A dangerous combination of fan impatience, potential departures of key players, financial constraints in the transfer market and criticism by a former board member is threatening to ruin Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's preparations for the new Premier League season.
Arsenal limped into the offseason licking its wounds after a campaign of much promise imploded in the final four months, leaving the London team still without a trophy since 2005.
Wenger, widely regarded as having one of the safest jobs in football, is suddenly under increasing pressure, and events in recent weeks are making his attempts to put Arsenal back on track ahead of next season even harder.
"There's a frustration with what's going on," former Arsenal captain Frank McLintock told The Associated Press. "It's time to give something back to the fans."
The biggest on-field issue concerning Wenger will be the future of his captain and star player Cesc Fabregas.
Arsenal managed to keep the Spain midfielder last summer, rejecting two bids by Barcelona despite the player himself expressing a desire to return to his former club.
But the Spanish and European champions have come back with a renewed offer this summer, testing the mettle of the Arsenal board.
A comment from AC Milan vice president Adriano Galliani on Thursday suggested Fabregas was on his way out of Arsenal.
"Fabregas will not join us because he will join a different club," Galliani told Milan's website Thursday.
Fellow midfielder Samir Nasri and left back Gael Clichy, who both play for France, have also been linked with moves away from Emirates Stadium. The pair have one year left on their contracts.
McLintock, who was Arsenal captain when the club won the league-FA Cup double in 1971, said Wenger's plans could be rocked if Fabregas or Nasri leave.
"Until these things are ironed out, it's a guessing game, he said. "They have to sort out the Fabregas factor. If they have made their minds up to sell him, then they have 30 million pounds ($50 million) to spend.
"To replace Fabregas and Nasri, they have to get outstanding players and Arsene Wenger will get outstanding players. They have to. They don't want another nearly, nearly season."
The frustration of Arsenal fans, who last season saw their team lose the League Cup final to Birmingham and drop out of contention in the Premier League with some lackluster displays in the run-in, will be enhanced by the team's lack of movement in the transfer market so far this summer.
While title rival Manchester United has spent a reported 50 million pounds ($80 million) in signing goalkeeper David De Gea, winger Ashley Young and defender Phil Jones to bolster an already strong squad, Wenger's only purchase has been unheralded 19-year-old defender Carl Jenkinson from lower-league side Charlton.
To maintain the club's financial stability, Wenger works under a self-sustaining model. It ensures the long-term future of Arsenal but supporters deal increasingly in the short term
At the start of June, Wenger even wrote a letter to a disillusioned fan who had written to the club complaining about a lack of major signings.
"People become impatient. I can understand that because I am impatient as well," Wenger wrote. "But we demand some understanding because we have to fight against clubs which have unlimited resources."
American businessman Stan Kroenke gained a controlling stake in Arsenal in April by buying shares from fellow directors to raise his stake to 66.64 percent.
Kroenke, who also owns the NFL's St. Louis Rams, the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids, vowed "to do what's necessary to assure success on the pitch, provide long-term stability and build on the accomplishments and history of the club."
But he and Arsenal's remaining shareholders came under attack on Tuesday from a former club director, Nina Bracewell-Smith, who said on Twitter: "I agree that current board should all go. They are passe. Have nothing more to give to the club at all."
"In time we will need a more dynamic pro-active, younger board, and a good directional leadership," added Bracewell-Smith, who sold her 15.9 percent stake to Kroenke.
Fans will not be so concerned about boardroom rumblings as long as the team is delivering on the pitch.
But with Fabregas possibly on his way out and with Arsenal's rivals getting stronger and stronger, it promises to be a tough season for Wenger and his young side.