Even if Arsenal prove to be a season short of Graham's estimation, he preferred coming up against his old club before their recruits from abroad adapt to the pace of English football. "They've brought in some very good players to go with Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp, who are capable of winning games on their own," Graham said. "Once the injured players are back and things come together, Arsenal will be a real force."
Maybe not enough of a force to extend Manchester United and Liverpool, but a squad strong enough to make Graham's respect understandable. A problem for Arsene Wenger, however, is the one he hinted at after Arsenal's draw at Elland Road on Saturday. There were a lot of foreign players on the field (four from France, two from the Netherlands in Arsenal's colours) but the football was essentially English.
"It takes time to adjust," Wenger said. "The ball was in the air a lot today and Leeds didn't allow our midfield to get going. How do you turn things around? I think it's a case of trying to put the best of both worlds together."
In view of a marked improvement in initiative and the form of his own foreign imports, Graham was a little put out by the suggestion that he has not made any alterations in style since steadying the ship last season. "The way we passed the ball was encouraging," he said. "Once our new players bed in I think we'll be fine, although at this stage of development I'm not looking beyond a top-six finish.'
Graham looks to have made some significant captures. Bruno Ribeiro from the Portugese club Vitoria Setubal has a pleasing style and, if Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's name won't fit on the back of his shirt, Premiership defenders will soon get to know him.
In response to Graham's urgent reminders that strikers in English football are required to put themselves about, Hasselbaink gave Arsenal's central defenders, Steve Bould and the new signing Gilles Grimandi, plenty to think about. Strong and quick, the Dutchman who joined Leeds from Boavista of Portugal was always lively and frequently dangerous. "There is a lot of Ian Wright in him," Graham added.
It was Wright, however, who first got on the score sheet, catching Leeds out in typical fashion immediately after Nigel Martyn had saved from him. A note was still being made of that incident when Wright again broke away on the left to shoot high into the far corner from an acute angle in the 35th minute.
Seven minutes later Leeds were level. Made increasingly nervous by Hasselbaink's sorties. Grimandi and Bould got themselves in a tangle and the Dutchman went on to take the opportunity with as fierce a shot as David Seaman is likely to be beaten by this season.
Arsenal found it increasingly difficult to free themselves from the web Leeds formed in midfield - a tight four without wide players - and a scrappy second half saw all four Frenchmen in Arsenal's line-up booked. Not that Wenger was disturbed by these reminders of last season's dismal disciplinary record. "The bookings didn't come from silly things," he said. "They were in the normal run of play, challenges for the ball. I don't see any reason to reprimand those players."
Not for the first time you were left wondering about the extent of Bergkamp's commitment. A hugely talented footballer, he is often the source of irritation personally. Consistent effort is not one of his strong points and it remains to be seen if this applies also to his compatriot, Marc Overmars. The winger did some good things, but more effort will be called for if he is to justify a big reputation.
On Saturday morning I listened to Cliff Morgan interviewing the best rugby footballer of all time, Gareth Edwards, on the occasion of his 50th birthday. Edwards recalled that even when the game was moving at a great pace he saw things in slow motion. There was enough careless passing on Saturday to emphasise that it does not apply to many players in the Premiership.
Goals: Wright (35) 0-1; Hasselbaink (42) 1-1.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Halle, Wetherall, Radebe, Robertson; Kelly, Bowyer, Hopkin (Haland, 83), Ribeiro (Kewell, 82); Hasselbaink, Wallace. Substitutes not used: Beeney (gk), Lilley, Molenaar.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Garde, Grimandi, Bould, Winterburn; Parlour, Viera (Platt, 63), Petit, Overmars (Hughes, 74); Bergkamp, Wright. Substitutes not used: Lukic (gk), Anelka, Marshall, Marshall.
Referee: D J Gallagher (Banbury). Bookings: Leeds Bowyer. Arsenal Viera, Grimandi, Petit, Garde.
Man of the match: Hasselbaink. Attendance: 37,993.Reuse content