Arsène Wenger looked to the heavens as he scoured his memory bank.
“I don't think I have played against Monaco since I left them,” he said eventually. “Of course I faced them when I managed Nancy for three years. It was they who decided to let me go to Monaco. But I don't think I've played them since I left.
“I'll be happy to see old friends of course. There are still people at the club who worked in the administration. But the whole team changed and they have gone into a new era as well. When I was there, the whole club was more guided by the Prince [of Monaco]. That has changed today because a new era has started.
"It's interesting because they bought some great players and they will buy again this year. With Paris Saint-Germain, they are the attraction in the French League.”
"We know, from things like the parade in Islington, how popular our club is in London - and we are very grateful for that. We have another example on Saturday and Sunday at the Emirates Cup as the games are a sell-out again"
We can leave that special reunion there for now as it will be the finale of Emirates Cup on Sunday. Before that, Arsenal host Benfica on Saturday straight after Valencia and Monaco meet in the opening game of the two-day tournament.
The event is now in its seventh year and has gained an exalted reputation around Europe. For Wenger, it is always a crucial guide to the last few weeks of pre-season.
“Yes it's always a signal that we are in the final stage of our preparation and that the serious things start again,” he said. “It's always an interesting test for us because for us it's an indicator of where we are in our preparation. It's good to come back to competition and it's good to have two days to see our level. It's also an opportunity for our fans to see the team and the players who we bought.”
Regarding that, certainly Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy should be on duty and, though just back into serious training, Alexis Sanchez may feature from the bench on one day at least. However keeper David Ospina is out with a thigh injury. Joel Campbell is not a new signing but a vibrant World Cup makes the return of the loanee seem like one.
Saturday’s opponents Benfica won their 33rd Portuguese title last season and were runners-up in the Europa League for the second year in succession.
“That shows consistency,” said Wenger. “They fight every year for the title in Portugal where you have Porto and Sporting Lisbon. You have good opponents who have quality and, technically, they are a very skilful team. They are very well known for their youth team work so you can always discover great players in their team.”
In many ways, discovery has always been at the heart of the Emirates Cup. Young players get a chance while older ones find out their fitness levels as the season approaches. And of course, Wenger can start to understand the overall level of his team.
Then there is the crowd. It is different in composition, predominantly younger, and therefore acts as an important method for new, different fans to discover Arsenal.
“We found out in pre-season that there is the tremendous interest and love in this club from all over the world,” said Wenger. “Of course we know, from things like the parade in Islington, how popular our club is in London - and we are very grateful for that. We have another example on Saturday and Sunday at the Emirates Cup as the games are a sell-out again.
“For me these games are a real test because we are close to the Community Shield and two weeks before the start of the Premier League.
“Just behind that we have a qualifier as well for the Champions League.
“So it's a measure of fitness, of tactical preparation and just how far we are away.”
Emirates Cup fixtures:
Saturday, August 2
14:00 Valencia v AS Monaco
16:20 Arsenal v Benfica
Sunday, August 3
14:00 Benfica v Valencia
16:20 Arsenal v AS Monaco
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