London: Arsene Wenger wants Arsenal to use this weekend’s Emirates Cup clashes against AC Milan and Celtic to send a warning to their Premier League rivals.
Wenger’s side have gone five years without a trophy and finished well behind champions Chelsea last season, but the Gunners boss is convinced the north Londoners are ready to end that barren spell.
Arsenal have an early opportunity to underline their progress in a prestigious pre-season tournament, at their own Emirates Stadium, which includes seven-time European champions Milan, Scottish giants Celtic and top French club Lyon.
After spending most of the close-season fighting off Barcelona’s attempts to lure Cesc Fabregas back to the Nou Camp, Wenger is able to focus on assessing the development of his young squad and he expects positive signs.
“I am very confident we’ll do better than last season,” Wenger said. “We know in England that the Premier League is the biggest league in the world and everybody invests a lot of money.
“We invest in our work, in our beliefs, in the quality of our behaviour and I am confident that will pay off.
“We finished third last year and we hope we can improve on that. But the race will be tough.”
Fabregas made it clear to Wenger he wanted to rejoin Barca before the start of the season, but Arsenal are refusing to give in to their captain’s demands and there is no sign of the deadlock being broken.
The Spain midfielder will be absent this weekend as he recovers from helping his country win the World Cup, but Wenger is certain to face further questions about his desire to keep a potentially unhappy player.
With Fabregas missing, Arsenal fans will get a glimpse of how the future could look without their talisman.
New arrivals Marouane Chamakh, a Moroccan forward signed from Bordeaux on a free transfer, and Laurent Koscielny, a French centre-back bought from Lorient for 10 million pounds, are certain to feature for the Gunners.
While Wenger’s men head into the season with much to prove, Celtic will use their matches against Lyon and Arsenal to rebuild confidence after a potentially disastrous 3-0 defeat at Braga in the Champions League qualifying round on Wednesday.
Neil Lennon’s team travelled to Portugal hopeful of a positive result to keep them on course for a place in the group stages of Europe’s elite club competition.
Instead they slumped to a loss that places their progress in severe jeopardy and leaves Lennon with a dilemma over whether to risk his first-team players or rest them for next week’s second leg.
Milan, who finished third in Serie A last season, will be without Brazilian star Ronaldinho who has a leg injury.
Celtic v Lyon (1300GMT)
Arsenal v AC Milan (1520GMT)
AC Milan v Lyon (1300GMT)
Arsenal v Celtic (1520GMT)
First Published: Saturday, July 31, 2010, 09:41