Isaac Lundall Wednesday, 26 July 2017
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The disappointment of the three goal loss to Chelsea aside, the Arsenal squad had a successful Australasian tour. The lads now enter the Emirates Cup phase of pre-season with games against Benfica at 5:20pm on Saturday and Sevilla at 5:20pm on Sunday (South African time). These two games are the last chance for players to gain form and fitness ahead of the Charity Shield against Chelsea the following weekend, followed by the start of the team's Premier League campaign against Leicester on 11 August. Alexis Sanchez and Skodran Mustafi are yet to join training, but Calum Chambers and Jack Wilshere have rejoined the squad after their successful loan stints at Middlesborough and Bournemouth last season. Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin have also joined training, and the first choice team is starting to take shape ahead of the new season.
The academy players involved in the Australasian tour impressed, and Arsenal fans hope to see more of them in the League Cup and Europa League. The Emirates Cup should provide guidance to how the team is likely to line up in the Premier League. Laurent Koscielny will miss the Charity Shield and the opener against Leicester, so it will interesting to see how the defensive line takes shape. Sead Kolašinac has integrated well into the team, and Rob Holding and Calum Chambers will be looking to stake a claim to be included in an Arsenal back four or back three as the case may be. Jack Wilshere also has an opportunity to make the Santi Cazorla role his own, at least until Santi Cazorla himself returns to full fitness. [Correction on 29 July 2017: Jack Wilshere is recovering from injury and will not play in the Emirates Cup.]
Two games will be played, one day after the other, so there will be much scope for rotation. Fans can look forward to a final festival of exhibition football before serious competition begins. We wish the lads all the best and exhort them to keep the Emirates Cup at Ashburton Grove.