Arsenal cruised to an emphatic 5-1 victory over Benfica on Day One of the Emirates Cup in a game that carried many positives for some of the club’s youngsters.
Yaya Sanogo, incredibly, scored four goals, with Hector Bellerin and Joel Campbell amongst those who assisted the Frenchman. Campbell, who was making his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt after three years out on loan, found the net himself, whilst substitutes Ignasi Miquel and Francis Coquelin struck the woodwork late on.
Goalkeeper Damian Martinez was disappointed to concede a goal to Nicolas Gaitan, but otherwise the Argentinian goalkeeper was largely impressive as he looks to finally earn promotion to the senior squad. Bellerin, meanwhile, certainly caught the eye in an attacking sense, and, with Calum Chambers deployed at centre-back, the former Barcelona player could still be elevated to the position of second-choice right-back for the new campaign.
Chambers forged an unorthodox central-defensive partnership with Nacho Monreal, and, although the youngster was not posed too many problems on his Arsenal debut, he still made some good tackles and clearances. On a day brimming with positives for Arsenal one of the most noteworthy moments was the introduction of Alexis Sanchez late on.
Miquel and Chuba Akpom also received late run-outs, with the latter especially determined to make an impact. Isaac Hayden and Gedion Zelalem were left out of the squad today, but the pair could feature against Monaco tomorrow, with Arsene Wenger likely to name an almost entirely different starting line-up to the one he fielded this afternoon.
Sanogo, who was deeply unconvincing at times last season, certainly seemed in confident mood here, although the Frenchman’s joy may be dampened a little by the injury he sustained in the second-half that forced his withdrawal. It was undoubtedly his most impressive showing since joining the club, however, as he demonstrated a previously unseen calm demeanour in front of goal.
With Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky in control and Campbell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain supplying pace out wide, Benfica were overwhelmed early on. Sanogo opened the scoring after good work from Ramsey, and the striker soon doubled his tally after latching onto Bellerin’s cut-back.
Campbell, who had waited so long for this moment, then made it 3-0 with a fine strike before Sanogo completed his hat-trick before the break after he was found by Kieran Gibbs. Sanogo then added another after the break, rendering Gaitan’s effort as the merest of consolations.
This was an excellent workout for Arsenal, certainly in comparison to the frustrating friendly in New York last week. Martinez, Bellerin, Campbell and Sanogo all enhanced their reputations, although it is hugely important not to draw too many conclusions from a pre-season fixture.
Tomorrow’s game against Monaco should be a more challenging affair, with Sanchez, Wojciech Szczesny, Mathieu Debuchy, Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla amongst those likely to start.
This, though, was a very memorable day for some of the club’s younger players.