The Emirates Cup has become renowned as a competition where Arsenal youngsters can make their mark in the first team.
It was at the Emirates Cup where Jack Wilshere first wowed Gunners fans with his majestic midfield play, for example, and every other youth team player now wants to follow in his footsteps.
This year’s Emirates Cup saw fine performances from three players who might receive further opportunities this season…
The most intriguing name on the teamsheet for the 6-0 thrashing of Lyon on the Saturday was Alex Iwobi, deployed in a wide position alongside an otherwise extremely strong team.
Other players might have been overawed by such an occasion, but Iwobi was hugely impressive from the left flank, demonstrating his speed, dribbling abilities and goalscoring threat too. He scored one goal and had another disallowed for offside, and his urgency was one of the main reasons Arsenal looked so dangerous at turnovers, always ready to spring forward on the counter-attack.
Iwobi is the nephew of Nigeria legend Jay-Jay Okocha, and remembers being taught tricks in his back garden by the ex-Bolton skipper. Iwobi is a different type of player, however - more likely to make his mark out wide, or perhaps even in a central striking role where he’s sometimes been deployed for Arsenal Under-21s, the team he’s regularly captained.
“I like his team attitude, his movement,” said Arsene Wenger on the pre-season tour of Singapore. “We have a game based on movement and speed, and he integrates that very well. He has good power and is usually efficient - he scores goals a lot.”
Iwobi sounds like the perfect Arsenal wide player, and while there’s plenty of competition for places in that role this season, he should gain further experience in the cup competitions.
Born in Paris in 1998, the year France won the World Cup in that city, Reine-Adelaide joined Arsenal from Lens this summer, after helping his country win the European Under-17 Championship, when he was named in the team of the tournament.
Reine-Adelaide was another who introduced himself at the Emirates Cup, playing half an hour on the Saturday against Lyon, then assisting Theo Walcott’s winner in the 1-0 victory over Wolfsburg the next day. Walcott was full of praise for the French midfielder.
“For 17 he’s confident on the ball and he wants to express himself as well,” Walcott told Arsenal.com. “It’s always nice to see a young player not be shy on the ball. Even if he makes a mistake he wants it again, which is a good sign. Getting that assist at the weekend just shows he’s got that touch in the final third where it matters most, and he’s got a good physical presence about him.
"The most important thing is not to put too much pressure on the young guy’s shoulders. He’s still got a lot to learn but he’s at the best club to do that with the best manager as well. He’s definitely got some skills and he’s very talented.”
Of Arsenal’s current players, Reine-Adelaide is probably most similar to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. While he’s generally played on either flank in his career thus far, Wenger has indicated that the Frenchman could develop into more of a box-to-box midfielder.
Showing he has an eye for a pass on Members' Day, it seems Reine-Adelaide has great all-round footballing ability.
A more established member of the first-team squad having joined from Villarreal in January, the Brazilian centre back made a few Premier League appearances in the second half of last season.
However, he was never likely to establish himself as a first choice during that period - he spoke little English, for a start, and Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny’s partnership was excellent.
Gabriel might be pushing more for a starting role this season. A proactive, no-nonsense centre back who likes moving up the pitch to close down opponents, winning the ball quickly, his style is reminiscent of his footballing idol, Lucio.
The former Bayern and Inter defender was notable for his exaggerated, aggressive approach to centre-back play, and Gabriel is following in his footsteps.
His performance in the 4-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion on the final day of 2014/15 was a good example. Compare the frequency of Gabriel's defensive movements to those of Per Mertesacker, and it’s clear he’s much more of an all-action defender.
“I believe Gabriel will be a revelation,” said Wenger earlier this summer. “I am convinced he will be a top player and we’ll see more of him this season.”
Quietly impressive on his first-team appearances thus far, Gabriel will need to be patient to get his first-team opportunity - but once he breaks into the team, he’ll be determined to make himself undroppable.
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