The Arsenalist Optimist: The Emirates Cup is Actually Good Meaningless Football


It’s a tough time to be an Arsenal fan. I think it’s safe to say I do not know one fan who is happy with any aspect of the club currently. We’ve documented it on this site. Between the moaning about the future of the club, concern over the management from the top to bottom, and underachievement of the players, we are beginning to sound like…Spurs fans of old.

With that in mind, I wanted to create a weekly ray of sunshine, a post that highlighted something good happening in the Arsenal world. Whether it’s a player on loan performing above expectations, or a youth player excelling, or a decision by the club that actually makes sense, we need some positive news to keep our faith in the club. My hope is every week this can be a safe space for us fans to enjoy what’s going right even if everything else seems to be going wrong.

So to start I want to highlight one of the biggest eye rolls among Arsenal fans – the Emirates Cup.

The complaint about this pre-season tournament is that it is just another cash grab by the club to charge fans premium prices to watch football that does not matter. Speaking for myself, I loathe friendlies and out-of-season competitions. I live in the United States which is a hotbed of clubs coming over to make money in the offseason and play their youth players. I refuse to pay to attend any of these matches regardless of the opponents because I do not want to pay full price to watch two clubs play half speed with half their roster. I’d rather save my money and pay for subscription services to watch them play elsewhere when the matches matter. I say this to set the scene that by nature, I do not like competitions like the Emirates Cup.

That said, the Cup always puts together intriguing matches that I feel actually help Arsenal prepare for the season. While you do see some depth players play throughout the tournament, all teams tend to take it somewhat seriously. It is close to the start of each team’s league campaign so it serves as a high-level warm-up for players and coaches.

This year’s line-up is especially exciting and it starts with RB Leipzig. The energy drink club is shocking the Bundesliga with its aggressive spending and (for German football anyway) controversial club building strategies. Regardless, this is a quality club with good players and a good coach. While some of their top talent may be sold prior to the Cup, they will continue to spend, to not only challenge Bayern but compete in the Champions League. Attending the Cup this year allows you to see potentially one Champions League title contender in the near future (ok, fine, two if you’re an optimistic Arsenal fan).

As for the clubs, the Gunners will actually be facing, Benfica is one of the top clubs in Portugal with a fine European history. They have 78 titles to their name and is a familiar brand to football fans. The next day Arsenal face Sevilla. Currently, they sit fourth in La Liga, so they could be another Champions League foe for Arsenal to face in the preseason. The business model is aggressive and they have a top manager who hopefully will not be hired away in the offseason. If all else fails, Arsenal fans will have another chance to boo Samir Nasri if his loan is extended or he is bought outright.

Preseason tournaments are a scam for fans who have to pay to attend, but the Emirates Cup is by far the best value for your money out there. At this point in the season, that counts as a positive point for Arsenal.