“Who is it this week?” – The Emirates Cup

No, your eyes do not deceive you. It is indeed, the long-awaited return of “Who Is It This Week?” Shout it from the rooftops! Tell your friends! Inform the men! WIITW is back!

And we start with a look at the sometimes annual pre-season tournament hosted by Arsenal: The Emirates Cup!

What is it?

  • Simply put, the Emirates Cup is a pre-season tournament hosted over two days in Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
  • Four team compete, playing two matches each.
  • Standard enough, three points awarded for a win, one for a draw and zero for a defeat.
  • Additional points are earned with every goal scored, placing more of an emphasis on attacking football.
  • The side top of the table after two games each is awarded the quite aesthetically pleasing Emirates Cup.

Who’s in it?

  • Obviously enough, Arsenal. The Gunners are the only team who have competed in all previous editions of the competition.
  • This year, they are joined by Portuguese side Benfica. The Lisbon club are participating in the Cup for the second time. They finished 4th in 2014.
  • Sevilla are the fifth Spanish side to contest this particular pre-season tournament. They finished 4th in La Liga last season.
  • Completing the line-up is German side RB Leipzig. Die Bullen finished 2nd in their first Bundesliga campaign last season.

10 years on…

  • This summer marks 10 years since the first Emirates Cup was played. It’s been played every year except for 2012 (London Olympics) and 2016 (extended Euro 2016 and pitch maintenance). I was lucky enough to get to London for the first edition of the Cup in 2007 and even luckier to stumble across the match programme a few weeks ago. Certainly brought back some memories.
  • The line-up for the first Emirates Cup was announced in May 2007 and consisted of Arsenal, Inter Milan, PSG and Hamburg. The German side were forced to pull-out due to their qualification for the Intertoto Cup (yes, that was still a thing as recently as then!) and they were replaced by Valencia.
  • I attended the first day of the tournament and got to see Inter vs Valencia and Arsenal vs PSG. The Gunners won 2-1 thanks to goals from Flamini and Bendtner.
  • Arsenal ended up winning the inaugural Emirates Cup after beating Inter 2-1 on the second day. Robin Van Persie got the winner.
  • Looking back at the squads for the tournament and it seems like a totally different world:
  • Only one player featured for Arsenal over the two games that remains at the club today – and even he might be gone soon! Kieran Gibbs played the majority of the match against Inter. Theo Walcott didn’t appear in either game. However, Jens Lehmann played 90 minutes against Inter and he is back at Arsenal now as a coach.
  • Inter Milan were coached by Roberto Mancini at the time. Their squad featured the likes of Francesco Toldo, Marco Materazzi, Luis Figo, Julio Cesar, Adriano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They lost both games though. David Suazo got their only goal.
  • Looking at the PSG team and it’s hard to believe it’s the same club that has some world-class players in their ranks nowadays. Youssuf Mulumbu (best known for his six years at West Brom), Pauleta (top scorer for Portuguese national team before Ronaldo came along), David N’Gog (once scored for Liverpool against Arsenal) and a 17 year old Mamadou Sakho all represented the French club that weekend. Their striker Peguy Luyindula finished as top scorer as he was the only player to hit more than one goal.
  • Likewise, the Valencia side has some interesting names – some of which most of us wouldn’t have known back then. Along with the more well known players like Canizares, Morientes, Helguera and David Villa, the Spaniards also had a 19 year old Juan Mata and a young David Silva in their ranks. They were coached by Quique Sanchez Flores back then. English fans may remember him from his recent stint in charge of Watford for the 2015-16 season – a season that included his Watford side knocking Arsenal out of the FA Cup at the Emirates!
  • There were two notable absentees from the visiting squads that weekend. Former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira was at Inter Milan in 2007 but injury meant he was unavailable that weekend. Valencia midfielder Edu, an Invincible who left Arsenal in 2005, was also injured for the tournament but did make the trip to visit his former club. The Brazilian actually had some terrible luck with injuries in his time in Spain, including suffering two cruciate ligament injuries (one in each knee!) that limited him to just 20 appearances in all competitions across his first two seasons with the club.

Emirates Cup stats pack

  • Since its inception, 21 different teams from 10 countries have participated in the Emirates Cup. Sevilla and RB Leipzig will raise that number to 23 this weekend.
  • Arsenal will be playing Benfica and Sevilla in this year’s tournament. The Gunners have a 100% record against sides from Spain and Portugal in the Emirates Cup, having beaten Real Madrid (’08), Atletico Madrid (’09) and Benfica (’14) in the past. Other Iberian sides have featured in the tournament (Valencia, Villarreal and Porto) but never faced the hosts.
  • Arsenal have won four of the previous eight editions of the Emirates Cup. The Gunners were victorious in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2015. The hosts have never finished 4th (suck it, memes!) but have ended up in 3rd place three times.
  • Having missed out on the inaugural tournament, Hamburg were invited to the 2008 Emirates Cup and the made good on their chances. Despite losing to Real Madrid on the first day, their 3-0 win over Juventus was enough to secure them 7 points and the Emirates Cup trophy.
  • New York Red Bulls, Valencia and Galatasaray have also left the Emirates Cup with the trophy. Arsenal’s win in 2015 was their first in five years.
  • 90 goals have been scored in the Emirates Cup since 2007. The 2014 tournament was the highest scoring with 15 goals across four games.
  • Yaya Sanogo is the top scorer in the history of the Emirates Cup. His four goals in one game against Benfica in 2014 is more than anyone else has managed in the illustrious history of this famous competition. Robin Van Persie has three goals, two of them coming in the 2011 tournament. Of our current squad, Walcott, Wilshere and Giroud have two goals each.
  • New signing Alexandre Lacazette could very well make his Emirates debut this weekend. The Frenchman has previously played in this competition though. He was part of the Lyon squad in 2015. He’ll be hoping for some better memories from this year’s Cup though…
  • Arsenal beat Lacazette’s Lyon 6-0 in 2015. Those six goals accounted for half of all goals scored at the Emirates Cup that year. A 1-0 win over Wolfsburg the following day secured the trophy for Arsenal. It’s also the only time Arsenal didn’t concede a goal in the tournament.
  • An Arsenal player has topped the goal-scoring at the Emirates Cup on just three occasions – 2009, 2011 and 2014. Andrey Arshavin and Jack Wilshere shared top spot with two goals a piece in 2009. That’s the only time Arsenal have both won the tournament and had a player finish as top scorer.
  • 2009 is one of just three years that the top scorer has come from the tournament winners. Hamburg’s Ivica Olic was the most prolific striker with two goals in 2008. Then in 2013, Galatasaray forward (and constant scourge of Arsenal) Didier Drogba was the joint-top scorer along with Goran Pandev.
  • There have been six penalties scored in the Emirates Cup, half of them coming in the 2013 tournament. There have also been four own goals in the Cup, half of them coming in the one match! Valencia vs Monaco in 2014 featured OG’s from two Portuguese defenders – Ricardo Carvalho and Ruben Vezo.

How about some goals?

  • As I’ve said, there’s been 90 goals scored in the Emirates Cup. Arsenal are responsible for 32 of them…
  • 2009: In a 3-0 over Rangers, a baby-faced Jack Wilshere scored twice as Arsenal went on to lift the trophy the same day. Wilshere, who was 17 at the time, earned the Man of the Match award in both games that weekend.
  • 2010: Arsenal started the competition with a 1-1 draw against AC Milan. Marouane Chamakh scored on his Emirates debut. The following day, Arsenal beat Celtic 3-2 and, again, went on to lift the Emirates Cup.
  • 2011: For the 2011 tournament, there was no extra point awarded for every goal scored. I don’t think it would have made much of a difference anyway, the Gunners defence was poor enough. On day one, Arsenal surrendered a 2-0 lead to draw with Boca Juniors. The second game was all about Thierry Henry returning to the Emirates. He’d been back before but it’s always special when The King is anywhere near Arsenal. Although he didn’t score, Henry played a part in New York’s late equaliser – an own goal from Kyle Bartley – and the draw was enough for the MLS side to win the tournament outright. Apologies for the video, it was the best quality I could find of the own goal. 
  • 2013: Two years later and Arsenal are once again haunted by a former Premier League striker – though we were much more familiar with this guy causing us grief! Didier Drogba, who always seems to find the net against Arsenal, got both goals as Galatasaray beat Arsenal 2-1 and won the Emirates Cup. The Gunners had drawn 2-2 with Napoli 24 hours earlier.
  • 2014: The 2014 Emirates Cup was all about one man. Yaya Sanogo was the chaos factor that Benfica were unable to handle. The Frenchman bagged himself a first-half hat-trick (one, two, three), before adding a fourth after the interval. The chaos was too much for even the man himself after that fourth goal. Joel Campbell also scored in the rout. But a 1-0 defeat to Monaco on the second day meant the Gunners went another year without winning their own tournament.
  • 2015: Arsenal managed to reclaim their Emirates Cup crown two years ago. They got the biggest win in Emirates Cup history on the opening day, beating Lyon 6-0. The goals came from six different scorers too: Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Ramsey, Ozil and Cazorla all on the score sheet. Not quite as free scoring the next day, but a Theo Walcott goal against Wolfsburg was enough to seal the tournament win.

So who’s playing who and when? 

  • The 2017 Emirates Cup kicks off with RB Leipzig against Sevilla at 2pm (BST) on Saturday. That’s followed at 4:20pm by Arsenal vs Benfica.
  • On Sunday, it’s RB Leipzig vs Benfica at 2pm before the tournament concludes with Arsenal taking on Sevilla at 4:20pm.
  • All four matches will be broadcast live in the UK and Ireland on free-to-air channel Quest.

And that’s that…

So there’s everything you could possibly want to know ahead of the Emirates Cup this weekend. It’s usually good for some goals and is a decent way to spend an afternoon, whether you’re lucky enough to be in attendance or just watching at home. There’s a good chance of seeing Lacazette making his home debut for the Gunners, as well as getting a glimpse of some great players from three top European sides.

Thanks for reading the first WIITW of the 2017-18 season. I’m planning on making more regular posts this season and not just limit it to our Premier League exploits. I’ll try to make them as enjoyable as possible and keep you coming back for more!

I’ll be back next week to preview the Community Shield clash with Chelsea!

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