Finally, the day has come to watch Arsenal play for the first time somewhat competitively in a very exciting summer for the Gooners. The prospect of seeing their new recruits in the Puma red and white kits of the team against European oppositions and the fact that constant Saturday football is back makes today very special for not only the Arsenal fans but all football lovers. Today, the Emirates’ Cup hosted by Arsenal in London commences with three teams from across Europe. The 2014 edition of the tournament slated for Saturday, 2nd – Sunday, 3rdAugust, 2014, would see Arsenal of the English Premier League (host), Benfica of the Portuguese Primeira Liga, Monaco of the French Ligue 1 and Valencia of the Spanish La Liga, trade tackles. How the Arsenal team will line up against Portuguese Primeira Liga Champions, Benfica, today is another subject of speculations and calculations based on current form and fitness, for as at the time of writing this article, no official line up has been released by Arsenal. In the absence of the conquering World Cup trio of Per Mertersacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski, who should be packing their bags as their holidays are almost over, a good showing of the team in the tournament is expected to serve a confidence booster into the new 2014/2015 season.
At the Goalkeeping department, new signing and Colombia International, David Ospina, has just this morning, been ruled out of the Emirates Cup with a thigh strain picked up in training. This is an obvious blow and disappointment especially to fans travelling to the Emirates this weekend to get a glimpse of the former OGC Nice player. However, it makes selection easy as the choice of who stays between the sticks for Arsenal solely points to Wojciech Szczesny, the number 1 goalkeeper, who may not lose his place immediately. We expect to see an improved player in Szczesny today as an able competitor should make him stay on his toes at all times to secure his position as the favourite.
Defensively, Arsenal’s options are quite short and one should really expect some level of make shifts, swapping roles and switching positions. With Arsene Wenger declaring Thomas Vermaelen injured and Per Mertersacker still out on holiday, Calum Chambers should be called upon in the capacity of a centre back pairing with Laurent Koscielny. At right back, fans would be jolted to see what Mathieu Debuchy brings to the table, while at left back; the top choice of Kieran Gibbs should be seen. Nacho Monreal would serve a good back up to the English man while Hector Bellerin and Ignasi Miquel should make the bench.
In the middle, with most of the players fit, some selection headache for the manager, which by now he should be getting used to, is imminent. One of Arteta and Flamini would be expected to take charge in the holding midfielder’s position but Wenger’s preference may be Arteta, except he sees Benfica as a physical side. Ramsey, last season’s stand out performer should be called for action as the box to box midfielder, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla making up the numbers in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Olivier Giroud should be picked to lead the attack except some experimentation by the manager is to be.
However, with 6 substitutions per team allowed in this competition, Abou Diaby, Joel Campbell and Alexis Sanchez, at one point, would feature in this match. Wenger may however decide to give some young guns like Chuba Akpom, Isaac Hayden and Kris Olsson, a run-in with these opportunities of matches.
LINE UP: Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczesny; Defenders: Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs; Midfielders: Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla; Attacker: Olivier Giroud.