Arsenal fans can expect to get a first look at their club’s summer signings when Benfica provide the opposition in the first match of the Emirates Cup on Saturday. Breaking what has become a frustrating tradition for many supporters of not doing his business until late in the transfer window, manager Arsène Wenger has already captured Alexis Sánchez, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina and Calum Chambers.
The latter trio all took part in Arsenal’s training camp in Austria this week and, while Sánchez didn’t make the trip following an extended layoff after the World Cup, all will be involved in the annual preseason tournament, Wenger confirmed. Wenger also suggested that he will use the matches with Benfica and then against Monaco on Sunday to assess whether he goes back into the transfer market.
“I'm very happy because I did what I wanted, and I am still open to do more,” he said, according to Arsenal’s official website. “We are a bit ahead of what we usually do, because the availability on the market was bigger and earlier than before.
“Everyone takes a breather at the moment because everyone checks in their preparation games what they still need. People have done the biggest part of what they want to do and the last part will be done after the preparation games to see what you miss.”
The matches may well also provide a hint as to who will start in goal for Arsenal when their Premier League campaign begins against Crystal Palace in two weeks’ time. The arrival of Colombia’s No. 1 Ospina from Nice puts plenty of pressure on last season’s first choice Wojciech Szczesny.
“I cannot tell you when he will play but he is in a position where he has to fight for his position,” Wenger said of Ospina. “I like him as a goalkeeper because he's intelligent, he's quick and has shown that he can adapt.”
The match against Benfica will be Arsenal’s third of a preseason abbreviated because of the World Cup. A win over non-league side Boreham Wood was followed by a short return to the United States for the first time in 25 years and a 1-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls. Benfica have significantly more game time under their belts in preparation for the Portuguese Super Cup next weekend and the start of the Primeira Liga season the following week.
Although again heartbreakingly missing out on winning the Europa League, the Lisbon giants achieved a domestic double with league and cup success. But coach Jorge Jesus faces a tough task to match those feats after Benfica again sold off several of their best players during the close season. Among those to depart this summer were Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay, goalkeeper Jan Oblak, Serbian starlet Lazar Markovic and influential midfielder André Gomes.
Lower-priced replacements have been brought in, mainly from Brazil, including 20-year-old attacking midfielder Talisca. Also among the new signings is a player familiar with the Premier League in former Manchester United winger Bebé. While he was the subject of much ridicule during his three years at Old Trafford following his £7 million move, the 24-year-old impressed on loan at Portuguese side Paços de Ferreira last season, scoring 11 league goals, and would doubtless love to get a first strike for his new club and show an English audience that he still has much to offer.
Where to watch: The Emirates Cup match will kick off from the Emirates Stadium at 11.20 p.m. ET. A live stream will be provided by ESPN3 and Watch ESPN.