Emirates Cup Preview & Trivial Pursuits

The Emirates Cup is a fixture in the club’s calendar, figuratively and quite literally. Canned due to Euro2016, it’s back with Benfica and Sevilla providing Arsenal’s opposition; RB Leipzig complete the quartet of competing teams. I wonder if you can spot the odd team out?

Yes, just the hosts who aren’t in next season’s Champions League although you’d put money on us seeing one or all three dropping into the Europa League at Christmas. Indeed, Sevilla may do so if they don’t win their play-off tie early next month.

The Arsenal squad was announced yesterday with no surprises. Anyone who didn’t go on the pre-season tour was never going to feature here unless they were an a-lister.

It lends itself to the line-ups for the two days being:

Cech; Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal; Bellerin, Ramsey. Xhaka. Kolasinac; Welbeck. Ozil; Lacazette


Ospina, Koscelny, Elneny, Chambers; Nelson, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bramall; Iwobi, Walcott; Giroud

Now there is logic behind that set-up rather than the usual ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ approach to team selection.

Koscielny has two matches remaining of his suspension so Mertesacker seems likely to play against Chelsea and Leicester, unless Mustafi is a lot fitter than anyone else returning for pre-season training. Certainly in the Community Shield, the BFG will start; better to give that trio another game to build an understanding, in my view.

The ‘choice’ would be Alexis’ position. I suspect that Welbeck will get the nod ahead of Iwobi for the goal threat he carries and work-rate. Whether Arsène thinks that is another matter. As is whether he will continue the 60/30 approach to matches; I’d expect wholesale changes at some point, however.

What of the other teams this weekend? Here’s the extensively researched guide to the three other teams.


They are a pub quiz question in the making: Which club let both Pele and Patrick Vieira leave in the same summer? The answer is Benfica in 2017.

That’s the Pele christened Judilson Mamadu Tuncará Gomes, and the Brazilian Patrick Vieira – Patrick de Oliveira Vieira; you inferred that Pele and the Patrick Vieira, I didn’t specify which one.

So you won’t see Patrick Vieira on the pitch at The Emirates nor Pele. Not in tournament anyway and with the pair going to Rio Ave and Vittoria de Setubal, friendlies are the only way they will take on Arsenal.

The Portuguese champions were thumped by Dortmund in last season’s Round of Sixteen; we share their pain. Like Monaco, they’ve made a packet selling to Manchester. City paid €40m for Edersen while United tipped their cap politely to reveal €35.5m, enough to take Victor Linedelhof to Old Trafford.

They still have the rump of the side which won the title and famous names such as Raul – no, not that Raul – but pertinently, Chris Willock. It will be interesting to see if he faces Arsenal this Saturday. It would be good for English football if he made a success of playing abroad rather than the usual ‘like living in a foreign country’ routine British players pull.

Form guide: They lost to Hull in their last friendly. And let Yaya Sanogo dream last time they were here.


Not a pub quiz question in the making, or at least not one which lends itself to cheap gags. Controversial new manager whose views certainly made him a new age man. Or was that stone age? Scratch what I said about cheap gags. Monday’s ‘cock up in team selection’ headline is already written. Stone age it is.

Fourth in La Liga, their reign of European success is over. Three consecutive Europa League trophies is not to be sniffed at – not any more, you can’t be a Champions League snob if you’re not in it – which begs the question, what would you prefer? Three consecutive Europa League trophies and qualification to the Champions League that way, or finishing in the top four?

It’s Sevilla 2.0 now; Monchi, the fabled director of football has gone to Roma but his systems remain intact. Can the Rojiblancos continue their financial success without him?

Form guide: Lost to Kashima Antlers last time out. First time at Emirates Cup even though I thought they’d been here before.

RB Leipzig

Germany’s Chelsea. Didn’t exist before money and now they have cash, everyone hates them. Die Roten Bullen; sums it all up really.

Which is all anyone needs to know about them for this tournament. Ralf Rangnick, their director of football, was a name bandied around when everyone believed Ivan was going to win the power battle, while coach Ralph Hasenhüttl was tipped as a replacement for Wenger.

Now Hasenhüttl is a MMA referee, if Naby Keita’s tackle in training was anything to go by, although for a £70m player, I’d expect him to know how to tackle.

Form guide: None; appears to be their first pre-season friendlies. Have Scottish international Oliver Burke in their ranks. Another one of our ‘nearly signed’ XI.

Unsurprisingly, Arsenal are the bookies favourites but the form guide means nothing here so searching out free bet offers may provide the value in the wagers.

Enjoy the matches if you are going this weekend. If you’re not, enjoy trying to find the channel Quest that the game is on in the UK. I have no clue where it is being shown around the rest of the world – aside from the local English bar – so good luck in finding the coverage. If anyone knows where it is on in Spain, let me know!

’til Tomorrow.

227 thoughts on “Emirates Cup Preview & Trivial Pursuits

  1. Bill,

    That would make sense except both of Sevilla’s goals came down the right side. The other thing is down the left side Brahmall played who honestly shouldn’t even be first to the close team as he is still developing and finding his feet and all pre-season has really seemed to defer and keep things safe.

  2. Colts,

    It’s done to encourage teams to play attacking football, rather than bus parking and hoping for a goal on the break. It certainly spiced up the two games and ensured the fans saw some action.

  3. Anyways, I’m off to do some homework so I will check and read comments a bit later. Enjoyed the 2 matches and I think the biggest difference between yesterday and today was the midfield play and I know most won’t agree and it will give you lot something to talk about BUT, when Elneny played yesterday next to Xhaka, Elneny ran the match and he looked dynamic going forward both creating chances directly and indirectly.

  4. C

    I understand your concern about defense on the right wing but I don’t really think that either of the goals they scored were due to Ox not playing defense. On the other hand with Ozil slowing down and we need someone who can make plays and get the ball into dangerous positions and cause some panic and disorganization in the opposition defense just like what happened in the second half today. Without a dynamic influence somewhere we tend to fall into our tippy tippy ball possession habit. I am not a fan of watching tippy tappy nor do I think it is very effective.

  5. Orson Kaert:

    It’s done to encourage teams to play attacking football, rather than bus parking and hoping for a goal on the break.It certainly spiced up the two games and ensured the fans saw some action.

    I assumed that was the case, but fair is fair surely, regardless of usp. Is kind of an arsenal trait to defy logic though I guess…

  6. Orson Kaert,

    Yepp, probably. Just looking for some silver lining where there’s likely none.

    Though, in thought it makes sense to have someone who is tidy in possession, good in passing and comfortable with the ball in central defense.

    Thought he was sort of like a faster Mert and I liked it:-)

  7. C,

    Yes, I’m coming around to your thinking of Eleneny. He’s skill set is with a broad paint. Probably better as cmf But as he’s so comfortable with ball and finding outlets that maybe should be the deepest cmf?

  8. I have seen a couple rumors and if we do sell Ox I hope we don’t sell him to Chelsea. They would certainly be a more dangerous team with Ox flying down the right wing instead of Victor Moses.

  9. and do u people see lacazette limping out of the match… Giroud is surely going nowhere, I expect him to be the starting 9 unless arsene wenger decides to make use of his beloved sons… Ramsey and Iwobi with ozil in midfield and welbeck top strike… cos even if Sanchez isn’t leaving, I don’t expect him to start the first 2 games of the season

  10. and it seems calum chambers is really on his way out of the club, he didn’t feature at all… by now wenger should have his supposed first eleven to start the premiership playing together but hell no, the crazy old man is still doing stupid experiment with his line up….. can u see Manchester City already purring in their matches? Damm…. they really don’t actually need Sanchez to be sincere

  11. Welsh Corgi

    I agree, IMO, the deepest central midfielder would probably be a perfect position for Elneny. Unfortunately that is the only place Xhaka can play. Myself, I am not a fan of Xhaka and I would be happy to see us give Elneny a try in that position.

  12. captain senderos,

    Doesn’t help that two of his first team players are still on summer break even though other players involved in the Confederations Cup are already back playing for their clubs. Mutasfi is meant to start training today, so he just maybe available for the match against Leicester. If he isn’t we don’t have Kos, or Gabriel available which is probably why Wenger has been playing around with the defenders in these matches. I’m assuming the back three against Chelsea and Leicester is going to be Holding, Per and Monreal with Elneny on the bench to provide cover. We were in the same position last season as we hadn’t signed Mustafi when the season started and Kos wasn’t available. We ended up taking 1 point out of a possible 6 in the first two games.

  13. Hearty congratulations to the England Womens team for reaching the Semi-Finals of the European Championships. Terrific series of performances showing guts, determination and a will to win.

    A sobering thought, these professional sports women earn an average of £35,000 per YEAR! Even YaYa Sanogo gets more in a week than that.

  14. Bill,

    Welsh Corgi Cardigan,

    The main reason I don’t think that he is strictly (though he clearly has the skill set for it) the deepest midfielder is because like he showed in the first match and has shown for both club and country, he can make things happen not just with his passing but with his passing ability and workrate. For instance, he ran the 2nd half and we scored 5 goals in the first match and it wasn’t just him linking play, time and time again he pushed forward and created chances for everybody including Giroud.

    I think he has a skillset that fits in all 3 aspects on a pitch of a team be it keeping it tidy and maintaining possesion as a defender, linking play and getting it to the attackers ala Santi in midfield or playing a pass in attack that indirectly or directly creates a chance.

  15. Orson Kaert,

    Its why I support and bang on about women’s futbol, these women play at an extremely hih level but don’t get nearly as much as often times the youth at some of the clubs in Europe.

    For instance, the USWNT even when they were bossing world futbol were getting paid pennies co.pared to MLS players who are getting paid $150,000-300,000 a year.

  16. C

    You make Elneny sound like a combination of cazorla, Iniesta, Kante, and Xabi Alonso all wrapped up in one player. We bought him for around $6M and we were going to sell for about $10M. He is a nice squad player and a perfect utility player but the rest of world football does not rate him quite as highly as you do.

  17. I think Elneny is Denilson with a better engine and more defensive skill and better hair. I agre with Welsh Corgi. Skill set fits best as the deepest midfielder.

  18. Bill,

    You overrate fees my friend, Kante was bought for something like 6m, Aumbameyang waa bout by Dortmund for 13m and Morata was sold to Juve for pennies; doesn’t mean everything my friend, just to most such as yourself.

    You think he is Denilson, well thats because for whatever reaso you view all midfielders as possession players, Xabi was BRILLIANT yet he was a possession player who could spread the ball anywhere he wanted but could play neat and tidy. Inesta, possibly thr greatest midfirld player of his generation was neat and tidy. I’m not comparing Elneny to them but I’m saying as a midfielder part of your job is to be neat and tidy whe keeping things moving.

    I fear you are a product of the power and pace of the PL which is funny because Gilberto and Petit had so many of Elneny’s qualities but where more physical and athletic at times yet people forget that part.

  19. Bill,

    By the way, Elneny has so many of the qualities of Kante and Xabi but how many outside of me and a few others knew of Kante in Ligue Un before he did what he did at Leicester? Hell, Gueye has outperformed Kante last season and partly through the season before yet you and so many would never bid 30m on him but if we did he would be our Kante and so much more.

  20. Taken a few hours and haven’t amended my initial impression.

    Distincrtly unimpressive outing.

    The comments and discussions are illuminative of where we stand. Years into their tenure posters are still discussing where a Ramsey or Oxlade Chamberlain fits, trying to define their skill sets. If you detach and look objectively it’s ludicrous.

    It is not as though pre-season has failed to produce any brightness – Kolasinac, Elneny, Nelson, Bielik and some early promise from Lacazette. But, it feels indistinct and directionless and I’m unaware how anything relates to the Charity Shield or the upcoming season.

  21. C,

    You and I are on the same page regarding Elneny (and I am happy to see many more seem increasingly aware of his versatility). I do not have time now, but I will possibly add some extended thoughts on Elneny later.

    However, I’ll nominate Santi Cazorla and how I recall his midfield presence.

    Yes, you can dive deeper and remember Santi ‘caught’ by a couple of players, making a magical turn and using both feet to dribble from trouble. But that is not the overarching memory when he dropped deeper into midfield. It’s more simple.

    Cazorla provided a steadying presence, a safe pair of feet to receive and distribute the ball.

    It was not all flash, it was not incessent surging forward and dribbling with the ball and it was not constantly making 30 yard defense splitting passes. Santi had all those tricks and more in his bag but his general play was much more measured and controlled – he imparted a reassuring presence in midfield.

    That is also what Elneny provides.

  22. I for one am sold on Lucazette. Ofcourse its still the pre-season and Wenger is cautioning patience but man am i excited for the coming season. Now lets see what we do in the community shield next week..

  23. C,

    Totally agree. And liverpool paid 50 mill for torres and he was crap. Ditto Kaka, and you could go on and on and on. I actually think of Elneny as a bit of a Xavi Hernandez. Not so strong on the ball, but always receiving and circulating it.
    My prediction for the season: mid-table and Arsene out before the end of the season. Sanchez might improve the team a few places, but he won’t get it into the top four. Sorry to be grim but, as Sanchez realises, Arsene just doesn’t have it.

Comments are closed.