Arsenal players geared for Emirates Cup
A number of Arsenal players have expressed their excitement about the Emirates Cup tournament that begins this weekend. The Emirates Cup is the first of two pre-season tournaments (the other being the Amsterdam Tournament, hosted by Dutch side Ajax) that Arsenal will compete in before the competitive season begins and involves three other big European clubs; France’s Paris-Saint Germain, Italian champions Inter Milan and Spanish side Valencia. Arsenal kick off the tournament with a match against Paris Saint-Germain and young left-back Armand Traore has said he absolutely cannot wait for the game.
“I still have not made it yet and I need to impress the boss and make him believe that I can do it. As soon as I heard PSG were coming to Emirates I was really happy. I was a massive supporter of PSG when I was younger. I used to go with all my friends on Saturdays to cheer them on.”
Traore is currently Arsenal’s second-choice left-back after fellow Frenchman Gael Clichy, and will have an almost impossible time displacing him from the starting team. But at 17 he still has a big future ahead of him and it is great to hear he is looking forward to making an impression on manager Arsene Wenger. From the evidence that I have seen from him in Carling Cup matches and the two pre-season friendly matches against Barnet and Genclerbirligi he definitely has the raw talent to eventually nail down a first-team position at the club.
Van Persie and Toure delighted with big games
Another player who is looking forward to the the games against Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan is Dutch striker Robin van Persie. Supporters will know that van Persie has not played a game for the club since he broke his foot after scoring during Arsenal’s 2-1 Premiership win over Manchester United. Van Persie has stressed that he is not yet back to full fitness but is looking forward to some more challenging matches than the previous two friendlies against Barnet and Genclerbirligi:
“I am up for this tournament. I am not 100 per cent yet so I’ll be using the Emirates Cup to get my touch and my fitness back. It is PSG and Inter Milan, two strong sides. But I think it is better to play two big teams in pre-season. It gets you to your level quicker.”
Even with the signing of Croatian striker Eduardo da Silva I cannot stress how important the Dutchman will be to Arsenal’s success next season. He looked odds-on to bag over twenty goals for the club last season until injury struck him down and a couple of Emirates Cup goals will do wonders for his confidence going into next season. Van Persie’s comment that playing better sides will improve Arsenal’s preparation for next season is spot on and has also been echoed by one of the club’s real leaders, Kolo Toure:
“They will all be tight games. Playing teams like these makes us much better prepared for the season to come.”
Wenger’s preparation is spot on
Whilst the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have spent millions on new signings the greatest advantage that Arsenal has over these sides is that the club’s pre-season schedule will have the side perfectly prepared for the start of the season. Wenger has lined up matches with the aforementioned Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan, as well as two other big fixtures against Lazio and Ajax in the Amsterdam Tournament.
One of the most difficult things that any Arsenal supporter could attempt to do at this point in time is predict what the side’s starting line-up will be next season. Wenger will want to see how the likes of new signings Eduardo, Bacary Sagna and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and younger players Theo Walcott, Denilson and Johan Djourou (to name but a few) will go against more difficult opposition before he nails down a favoured starting line-up. Arsenal’s young squad have all to play for going into next season and it will do the club’s pre-season preparations no harm at all.
Who – if anyone – will replace Ljungberg?
I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I thought the exit of Swedish midfielder Fredrik Ljungberg drastically reduced Arsenal’s options out wide and, as a result, a replacement should be brought in. Wenger hinted yesterday that Emmanuel Eboue is set to play a more attacking role in the side but in my eyes that still leaves a gaping hole on the left side of the midfield. Wenger favours Tomas Rosicky as the first choice left-midfielder but in my opinion he is better utilised centrally behind the two strikers, where he plays for the Czech national team. Regardless, if Wenger wants to continue playing 4-4-2 then he must sign a replacement for Ljungberg. But who could that replacement be? It is absolutely impossible to try and predict where Wenger will pull any signing from and so I will refrain from doing so. However, I would like to point out two players who I believe could provide the answer.
(1) Alessandro Mancini (Roma) – I’d thought about this a little while ago but the name was again brought to my attention yesterday by a comment from regular reader GunnerShabz. It does make sense. He currently plays wide on the right for Roma and bringing him in would allow Hleb to move over to the left (where he performed so impressively for previous club Stuttgart) and challenge for that position with Rosicky. Mancini has the pace and workrate, and his tendency to play wider on the park would give the attackers more space in the area. He’s available and reportedly valued at around £11 million which, in my opinion would be well worth the money.
(2) Martin Petrov (Atletico Madrid) – This is a far more debatable option (due to Petrov’s age) but everything I have seen from the Bulgarian has impressed me. He’s a lightning quick left-winger and, unlike many of the current Arsenal squad, is quite a powerful player – similar to Chelsea’s new signing Florent Malouda. He may be a bit old at 28 but I believe he would provide a good second option if Arsenal struggle for width again like they did last season. He is available and valued at around £6.2 million.
So there you have it. I’m interested to hear your opinions on these suggestions. I’m expecting to cop a bit of an ear-bashing for my Petrov selection but I guess that’s all part of the job. Before I go I thought I’d also let you all know that I’ve signed up for Arsenal TV on the official Arsenal site, which means I’ll have full coverage of all of the Emirates Cup and Amsterdam Tournament games. There’s plenty of interviews and highlights for me to sift through as well so I’m hoping this will improve the quality of my posts on the Arsenal FC Blog, but we’ll see how it goes.
Have your say on the Emirates Cup or Ljungberg’s possible replacement by leaving a comment.