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.
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!