What we learned from the Emirates Cup

Posted by Sam Limbert

The Emirates Cup is often an easy target for mockery from fans of Arsenal rivals, who claim the Gunners have to make their own trophy to win something, and then they can't even win it themselves. However, for all of those comments, the two matches the past two days provide a good idea as to where Arsenal are ahead of the new season.

The Gunners drew 2-2 with Napoli on Saturday and lost 2-1 to Galatasaray on Sunday. With the exception of Yaya Sanogo, there weren’t any new faces for Arsenal fans to get a look at, so what did the weekend tell us?

-Drogba double downs Gunners
-Gervinho in Italy for medical
-Wenger: Arsenal can win without Suarez


Mikel Arteta is crucial to Arsenal: It was no coincidence Napoli looked most dangerous before Arteta arrived to anchor the midfield. The prospect of Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere together in midfield is an exciting one; however, the pair still need to work on their understanding. Too often, both were up alongside Tomas Rosicky, leaving plenty of space in front of the Arsenal back four for Napoli to run into.

This space was exploited well for the second goal for the Italians. Until Didier Drogba came on, Galatasaray didn’t challenge the back four too often because of the presence of Arteta.

Laurent Koscielny doesn’t do "friendlies": Despite the word "cup" being added to these games, they were ultimately preseason friendlies. However, the latter is a word that doesn’t seem to be in Koscielny’s vernacular. The Frenchman was the standout performer against Napoli as he tackled well and, but for individual errors from Carl Jenkinson and Lukasz Fabianski, could have claimed another clean sheet alongside Per Mertesacker.

Two moments summed up his determination: the charging run to get his head to the ball to score against Napoli and his two slides to stop a corner late in the match. Fans can’t help but warm to such commitment, even in preseason.

Some fans will vent frustrations even at a friendly: Given chief executive Ivan Gazidis' proclamations of money to spend early in the summer, to have not spent a penny two weeks before the season starts has annoyed many. While it was disappointing to hear boos on Saturday, it was hardly surprising. The team were 2-0 down and Napoli were bringing on the "one who got away" in Gonzalo Higuain. However, all football fans are pretty fickle deep down, so a two-goal comeback and Higuain being in Koscielny’s pocket meant any minor booing didn’t ruin the day.

It’s unclear where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will ultimately play: With the return of Santi Cazorla against Galatasaray, I expected the Spaniard to play in the attacking midfield role behind Sanogo. Instead, he was on the left with Oxlade-Chamberlain supporting the striker. Oxlade-Chamberlain has played as a deep-lying midfielder and a winger in preseason, showing versatility.

It’s helpful to have someone who can play in a variety of roles. However, in the long run, I’m struggling to work out where he'll fit in the Arsenal first team. He has the potential to be good enough to hold down a regular place in the side, but it could be where there’s space rather than where he’s naturally best.

I hope Didier Drogba never returns to the Premier League: If he did, Arsenal would immediately have to write off matches against his team. Sunday's game changed completely when Drogba got involved. He dove to win a penalty before scoring an excellent goal to win the match. His habit of scoring against Arsenal would inevitably continue should he play in the Premier League again.

Drogba almost single-handedly wrecked Philippe Senderos’ Arsenal career, and continues to haunt Gunners center backs. On the whole, the back four looked tight on Sunday before fatigue kicked in during the second game in as many days and Drogba was unleashed. Hopefully, as it was only preseason, the defence won’t be as scarred as previous Arsenal players who have been taken apart by the Ivorian.

Overall, it was a good workout for Arsenal, but some players were overworked due to the roster being thinned by departures. For example, Mertesacker played all 180 minutes in two days. Hopefully, there will be some new faces the next time Arsenal appear at the Emirates, Aug. 17 to open the Premier League season against Aston Villa.

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