What can preseason friendlies really tell us? Anybody watching Arsenal in the Emirates Cup over the weekend would have concluded that it holds the ball well, tends to overcomplicate attacks instead of fully exploiting possession and has a mystifying weakness at the back that can transform a game it is controlling into something senselessly nervous. But we knew that already.
As Arsenal on Saturday drew a game against AC Milan in which it had looked in control, and then on Sunday hung on for a 3-2 victory against Celtic after battering
With that in mind, this suddenly looks like a terrifyingly good Arsenal side. Last season, despite lengthy injury absences for van Persie and Bendtner, Arsenal appeared to be a genuine title contender until a freakish
One of Arsenal's problems in recent years has been a tendency to compress everything in the attacking third into central areas because there seemed so little point in crossing. With a powerful forward who is strong in the air, the cross becomes a dangerous option again, and opposing defenses will now have the full width of the pitch to protect. Chamakh, though, is a particularly Arsenal breed of target man. Awkward and full of elbows as he may be, he also has a deft first touch and plays with a spirit of imagination. His goal on Saturday gives some indication of the potency he should add.
It is harder to be sure about the other new signing, center back
Just as important over the weekend were the performances of 18-year-old midfielder
As Wenger pointed out,
If Fabregas were to join Barcelona, it would be a blow. From a playing point of view, however, Arsenal would survive;
And the truth is that if he does stay -- and if his mind is right -- Arsenal has an excellent chance of winning the league this season. Chelsea is the favorite, but age will catch up with its squad eventually, Manchester City is still jelling and Manchester United has all the problems -- and overreliance on
Arsenal has stability, zest and balance, and has plugged one of the weaknesses that undermined its challenge last season. Central defense and goalkeeper still offer cause for concern -- as does the fact it lost all four games to United and Chelsea last season -- but the prognosis looks bright. All the usual Arsenal caveats apply, but this is a stronger side than the one that came very close last season.