The eighth Emirates Cup gets underway on Saturday as hosts Arsenal face Lyon.
The Gunners will be looking to win a second piece of pre-season silverware, having already lifted the Asia Trophy last week following victory over Premier League rivals Everton in the final.
Arsenal 3-1 Everton video highlights: Gunners win Asia Trophy as Petr Cech makes debut
But their recent record in their home tournament is not encouraging. They have won three out of seven editions, but none since 2010 and they lost out to Valencia in last year’s event
The Spaniards are not back to defend their title, with Villarreal and Wolfsburg joining Arsenal & Lyon in what should be well-matched competition on the eve of the season.
Arsenal’s campaign begins earlier than most as they face Chelsea in the Community Shield next Sunday, and Arsene Wenger feels that the Emirates Cup offers the perfect balance for ideal preparation.
He told Arsenal.com: “Personally I love the Emirates Cup because it’s competitive without having too much pressure on the games.
“It is vital for preparation. The international players came back quite late on July 11, so when you think that they have less than four weeks to prepare for the first Premier League game, it’s very short.”
Although the time for experimentation should now be over, Wenger could have little choice but to name two completely different sides to play Lyon tomorrow and Wolfsburg only 24 hours later.
Wojciech Szczesny will not be included in either after Wenger confirmed that the goalkeeper is poised to join Roma on loan for the 2015-16 season, while maintaining that he has a long-term future at the club.
Wenger is quoted in the Daily Express as saying: “Szczesny will not be involved as he might be going out on loan to Roma. It’s pretty much done. It’s just down to the paperwork. It’s not over the line yet.
“He is a top-class keeper but we have three keepers who are all top. So if one of them can play somewhere it’s good. But I believe Szczesny will have a future at Arsenal because I personally rate him highly.”
Petr Cech will almost certainly be number one at Arsenal this term after joining from Premier League champions Chelsea, likely knocking Szczesny down to third in the pecking order behind Colombian David Ospina.
The 34-year-old is Wenger’s only major summer signing so far, but Arsenal’s parsimonious manager has been promised £200m to spend on a striker of his choosing, board member Lord Harris told the Daily Mail.
According to The Independent, Karim Benzema is his French compatriot’s top target and would be open to a move to North London after 123 goals in 195 La Liga and Champions League games for Real Madrid.
With Danny Welbeck still sidelined by the knee injury which rules him out of Arsenal’s Premier League opener against West Ham United, as the Daily Express reports, Wenger’s current striking options are Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott.
Although he was largely deployed as a winger against Everton, Walcott showed his value as a central striker by drifting inside and bursting through the middle to open the scoring, as seen in the below video.
The England international could lead the line against Lyon with support from Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with Alexis Sanchez still recuperating after his Copa America exploits.
Defensive pairing Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, midfield duo Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla, and Cech are also likely to get final run outs before the clash against Chelsea at Wembley.
Lyon play in France’s Community Shield equivalent against Paris Saint-Germain next weekend, having finished second to Laurent Blanc’s treble winners last season, thus qualifying for the Champions League.
New signing Claudio Beauvue could start in attack in support of 29-goal talisman Alexandre Lacazette, who has been linked with a switch to Arsenal as well as Manchester United, as the Daily Star reports.