Yes, the Emirates Cup is just preseason, it's not a Real Trophy or anything like that. But we watched it, so we might as well make a few grand, sweeping pronouncements about what we saw. It's a lot more fun that way. So here's a few things that we learned from watching the Emirates Cup.
Mesut Özil is back
He never really left, in terms of Being Good At Soccer. But this is the first actual preseason Özil has had at Arsenal, after coming in at the tail end of the window his first year and coming in late after winning the World Cup last year. All that, coupled with the rigors of learning new teammates and a new league and enduring a few injuries, means that even though he's performed better than the #haters would have you believe, we still haven't seen the best of Mesut Özil at Arsenal yet.
One goal, two assists, an almost-goal, and 109 minutes in two days later, I think we have good reason to be excited about Özil this season – more so even than usual. Not only did he look at the top of his game in terms of passing, dribbling, and movement, but he looked fitter than I've seen him since he came here. Part of that may be the magic of Shad Forsythe, but I'd wager a lot of it is just being around for training. Considering how much fun Özil is to watch, this is very good news.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide is the new hotness
Sports fans love prospects. Arsenal fans definitely do. And when French teenager Reine-Adelaide got some playing time in both Emirates Cup games, he went from "wait why is this French dude named Jeff" to #JeffFC. He was good against Olympique Lyonnais, but he was even better against VfL Wolfsburg, and his assist for the game's only goal was a thing of beauty.
And Arsène Wenger clearly likes him.
Reine-Adelaide is something special you know. He is a great talent and when he came on you could see that -- 17 years old let's not forget that. In fact I don't remember how I played at 17 but I didn't play like that!
He's an offensive player but he can develop into an all-round midfielder as well. At the moment he plays on the right or left but I think he can develop as a central midfielder as well.
Obviously there's no guarantee that he'll end up being great, or even that good, but at least Jeff is off to a good start.
We're probably in good shape at goalkeeper
I don't think there was a lot of question that Petr Čech was good at sports. We've seen him play for years, we know what he can do. But it was nice to see it confirmed during the Asia tour, and again at the Emirates Cup. I'm sure someone somewhere was afraid that as soon as Čech put on an Arsenal shirt his arms would fall off or something. They did not.
Emiliano Martinez was also good in his appearance in the game against Lyon, making a few very nice saves, and of course David Ospina is still around. Even with Wojciech Szczesny heading to Italy for a year, it looks like Arsenal have three goalkeepers who are capable at worst, and at least one who is Super Good. That's a step up from last year.
Last year's injury cases are at varying levels of readiness
Three pretty important Arsenal players missed time with injury last year. Theo Walcott was still recovering from his busted knee last January, and didn't play a lot for most of the season. Jack Wilshere suffered an ankle injury that ended up lasting for months longer than expected. Mikel Arteta had a calf injury that turned into ankle surgery that turned into eight months of injury. Walcott and Wilshere returned late last season, but Arteta didn't – and right now, all three are at different places.
Walcott made appearances in both games, scoring against Wolfsburg and generally playing pretty well. He had a few other chances that he didn't convert, but that's pretty much how it goes when you're a striker. Wilshere started against Wolfsburg and showed some signs of advancing past last year's "dribble first, ask questions later" approach and towards more of a willingness to pass the ball before trouble happens. Arteta wasn't bad, but certainly looked like a guy starting his first game since Thanksgiving last year.
Theo looks pretty much ready to go. Wilshere looks better than he did most of last year, but I'm still mildly hesitant on him. Arteta's going to need a little time to get back to his best, but I'm pretty confident he will.
BONUS: We might actually be good
In two games in two days, Arsenal scored seven goals and allowed none. Neither Lyon nor Wolfsburg – the runners-up in Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga last year, respectively – looked particularly threatening when faced with Arsenal. Not only that, but the cumulative clean sheet came with an entirely different back line and different goalkeepers in the two games. There's depth, there's variety both in style and experience, and this is all without last year's player of the year playing a single minute. There might be something here, guys!