Emirates Cup Preview: Who Says Arsenal Don't Win Trophies?

Some trophies - David Cannon

The annual Emirates Cup starts tomorrow. Huzzah?

Arsenal are by far the most successful team to ever contest the Emirates Cup. They have won 60% of the Emirates Cups that have been contested! Sure, in school that's a low D and would assure you of working only in jobs that will eventually be done by robots, but in sports that's more than enough - no baseball player has ever hit in 60% of his career at bats, and no basketball player has ever shot 60% for his career (sorry, Artis Gilmore, I'm not rounding).

Presidents have been elected with less than 60% of the vote. Laws have been changed with less than 60% of the vote. My point is, the name Arsenal is synonymous with the Emirates Cup, and Arsenal bring something special to the tournament that can't be underestimated. Arsenal take this trophy seriously, and they win it more often than they lose it.

oh wait.

After taking 2012 off with a nasty case of Olympic Fever, this year sees the return of the Emirates Cup preseason friendly tournament to North London. This year's participants are Napoli, Galatasaray, and Porto; each team plays two of the other three (Arsenal don't play Porto), and in addition to three points for a win and one point for a draw, a point is awarded for each goal scored. Most points, of course, wins.

Arsenal's first game is tomorrow, against Napoli. Arsenal return from their adventures in the East with a healthy appreciation for not-humid weather, a suitcase full of souvenirs, and a horrible case of jet lag, which hopefully they're over by now. As is usual with friendlies, it's hard to tell what sort of lineup Arsene will run out - it's getting closer to the start of the season, though, so I'd bet that a starting lineup would lean more towards regulars and just a few kids, and not the other way 'round, and the kids will rotate in as much as possible.

Arsenal's starters for their last friendly were Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Miquel, Arteta, Wilshere, Ox, Gnabry, Walcott, and Giroud. I would expect tomorrow's lineup to look similar, with maybe Szcz getting the start over Fab (and if that doesn't happen tomorrow, it'll probably happen Sunday against Galatasaray).

I will be honest - I don't know much about Napoli. I don't really follow other leagues, so take everything you read below with a grain of salt and please feel free to chime in if you know more about Napoli than I (I'm assuming most people do. They have an SBN blog now, you know!). That said, here we go!

Napoli are a team in some serious transition this year - they lost their coach, Walter Mazzari, and replaced him with....shuffles papers...looks at notes...sees "Rafa Benitez"...thinks "no, that can't be, can it?"...confirms. Yep, Rafa Benitez has landed in Naples and is taking charge at Napoli, who are also without Edinson Cavani, their Uruguayan star, who signed with PSG.

Napoli, however, signed Arsenal target Gonzalo Higuain to replace Cavani, which....good for them I guess. Anyway, Napoli have played three preseason games, including a 3-1 win over Cup competitor Galatasaray. Serie A starts a week after the Premier League, so Napoli aren't as far through their preseason as most English teams; what that means for the Emirates Cup, I have no idea.

This, though, is the lineup they ran out against Gala:
Rafael; Mesto, Cannavaro (Fernandez 46), Britos, Armero (Dossena 46); Dzemaili (Radosevic 75), Behrami (Inler 46); Insigne, Hamsik (Mertens 56), Callejon (Zuniga 67); Pandev (Calaio 63).

As of that friendly, which was on the 29th, Higuain's transfer certificate had not been received so he was ineligible to play; I'm not sure if he'll play this tournament, but seeing him at the Emirates might sting a bit.

As far as tactics? I couldn't tell you. If they are a typical Benitez team, though, be on the lookout for lots of boring.

So yep, the team's back in London, and playing at home. Real soccer's getting close. Both Arsenal games are available on ESPN3 - Saturday and Sunday kickoffs are both at 8.15AM PT/11.15AM ET.

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