Arsenal lost 2-0 to reigning EPL champions Manchester City in a friendly held in Beijing. Three key lessons emerged from the game, the outcome of which can shape the Gunners' prospects once the real action begins.
Full-Back is the biggest defensive weakness
Whenever fans and pundits call for Arsene Wenger to bolster his defense, they are usually demanding new recruits at centre-half. However, the real weakness lies at full-back.
City ruthlessly exposed this weakness to set up their two first-half goals. On the left, both Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos are too often caught out of position and lack strength in the tackle.
Wenger has a big decision to make at left-back, although his options don't look any better over on the right side, where the sooner Bacary Sagna returns from injury, the better. That's because youngster Carl Jenkinson continues to look out of his depth against top-level competition.
The ex-Charlton Athletic starlet is too rash in the tackle and often takes him out of position, thanks to ill-advised lunges towards the ball. Jenkinson has made a big step up from English football's third tier and is still developing, but Arsenal need him to adapt quicker if he is going to feature in the first team.
Francis Coquelin should be given an extended run in midfield
French youth Francis Coquelin is quietly developing into one of the most skilled youngsters in Arsenal's squad. Positionally sound and sure in the tackle, Coquelin does not look out of place, no matter the level of competition.
After coming on as substitute, Coquelin was one of Arsenal's better players against the Citizens. His passing was bold and crisp, and he never lacked ideas when in possession.
Wenger should give Coquelin a genuine chance to establish himself as a regular first-teamer. He could quickly develop into the classy defensive midfielder the Gunners' current formation needs.
Arsenal Need Santi Cazorla
More precisely, Arsenal desperately need a player who can provide creative quality in the attacking third and supply precise through passes. The Gunners enjoyed several spells of measured and assured possession against City.
In general, their approach play was polished and easy on the eye. However, whenever they arrived at the box, a move would lose impetus. Since the loss of Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal have lacked the technical confidence to exploit the natural gaps in a defense and accurately pick out runners.
It is the vital element in Wenger's style of play, and the Arsenal boss must find a player who replicate what Fabregas gave the team. Santi Cazorla could certainly be that player, having been heavily linked with the Gunners, most recently by the Daily Mirror.
On the evidence of this game, finding a true playmaker and addressing the full-back dilemma should be Wenger's top priorities with the start of the season getting closer.