Date: 1st August 2014 at 7:33pm
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Arsenal’s annual curtain raiser rolls into town again. The Emirates Cup is likely to take place against a slightly more serene backdrop than summers past. With F.A. CUP 2014 added to the stadium’s perimeter and four new signings procured, the fanbase is a touch more relaxed.

The weekend is important for the club from a revenue perspective, but the name of the game is fitness and sharpness for the team and the manager. The supporters may get a glimpse of new boys Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy and Alexis Sanchez.

How Arsenal line up in defence may be revealing, with Thomas Vermaelen unlikely to be fit for the Crystal Palace game and with Per Mertesacker still on holiday following his World Cup excursions.

Mesut Ozil is likely to miss the beginning of the season too, so whether Rosicky or Cazorla assume the number ten spot may be interesting, though you imagine both will play the role at some point over the 180 minutes.

Benfica and Monaco will represent the most serious workouts of a pre season that contains only four friendlies and the Community Shield. Enjoy it, just don’t read anything into it!

Vital Quotes:

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger suggests fitness will be his main concern over the two matches this weekend, ‘It is a real test of fitness and of tactical preparation. I am more interested in the fitness.

Wenger also enthused over new boys David Ospina and Calum Chambers, ‘ like the player, I like the qualities he has and he`s a young prospect as well,’ Wenger said.
‘He`s English and I hope that in the future he will get a call-up to the English national team because what we have learned over the last two World Cups is that Spain won it with six players from Barcelona. This time Germany won it with six players from Bayern Munich. I hope next time that England win it with six players from Arsenal.

‘I cannot tell you when he will play but he is in a position where he has to fight for his position,’ said Wenger. ‘I like him as a goalkeeper because he’s intelligent, he’s quick and has shown that he can adapt.
‘He came to France at a very young age and adapted and managed to gain his place in the national team. He’s highly-regarded in France as a fantastic professional, that’s what made me sign him. I hope in the future he can show his qualities.’

Benfica’s Jorge Jesus told arsenal.com, ‘It`s a tournament with top-quality teams, a very prestigious event and it`s enough to say that it`s being played in London. We wanted to prepare this season by playing a tournament of this magnitude.

‘Magnitude in terms of teams, teams that force us into periods of great quality, teams that would also force us to do things that other opponents wouldn`t be able to.’

And Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim says, ‘I think that winning is the most important thing. When you win, you feel valued and winning is essential. We’re going to face some big rivals in the Emirates Cup; Arsenal, Monaco, Benfica and Valenica are all great teams. We couldn’t say it’s our target to win this tournament but we will compete.

‘Yesterday we travelled from South America from Europe, we are jet lagged and my players are tired. We played some hard games in Peru and South America and now we are here in London. Even though we are tired we want to take the trophy to Valencia.’

Arsenal Team News:

Colombian keeper David Ospina is unavailable due to a small thigh injury. Thomas Vermaelen only began training on Friday following a hamstring injury that has plagued him all summer.

Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil will not feature as they are still on summer vacation. Theo Walcott (knee) is out, but new boys Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Alexis Sanchez should all feature.

Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Debuchy, Gibbs, Koscielny, Rosicky, Arteta, Wilshere, Giroud, Chamberlain, Ramsey, Alexis, Monreal, S.Cazorla, Flamini, Chambers, Sanogo, Diaby, Gnabry, Campbell, Akpom, Bellerin, Martinez, Ayisi.

Player to watch: Alexis Sanchez

Drawing conclusions from these sorts of games is the passtime of quick to anger twitter virgins, but Alexis is all shiny and new.

On a more serious note, he has only trained with his new teammates once, so any game time will be invaluable for him to begin to foment understanding.

Benfica & Monaco Team News:

Not sure it matters really.

Player to watch: Nobody

It’s a glorified training session people.

Match Facts & Stats

Arsenal have won the Emirates Cup three times since its debut outing in 2007.

Only Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby remain from the inaugural competition.

Hamburg, New York Red Bulls and Galatasaray are other past winners of this most prestiogious of….oh nuts to it, that’s yer lot.

Ref Watch:

Don’t know, don’t care.

Match Prediction:

Results aren’t really important this weekend, but I’m going to venture that Arsenal will draw 1-1 with Benfica and beat Monaco 2-1.

Next Fixtures:

Arsenal play the Community Shield against Manchester City next Sunday at 3pm at Wembley Stadium.