Arsenal began their Emirates Cup defence with a 5-2 win against the Porteguese champions Benfica at a rainy Emirates Stadium. A cagey first half was offset by a classic second half Arsenal performance, with goals coming from Alex Iwobi, Olivier Giroud, a Lisandro López own goal and a Theo Walcott first half brace.
Arsène Wenger chose to stick with the three at the back formation that worked so well at the end of last season, culminating in the 2-1 FA Cup final win over Chelsea, for the Gunners' first game on English soil since that win at Wembley.
The starting XI was a mix of youth and experience from Arsenal, with starts for the club captain Per Mertesacker, Walcott and Giroud but also for Reiss Nelson, who has improved during pre season so far, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Rob Holding, who started his first match of pre-season after returning to training on Monday after participating in England's run to the semi finals of the UEFA Under-21 European Championship earlier this summer.
Summer signing Sead Kolasinac, who signed from Schalke 04 on a free transfer at the beginning of the transfer window, made his Emirates Stadium debut, while fellow summer signing Alexandre Lacazette started from the bench. It was also a debut for Arsenal's new two-tone blue away kit, which was revealed for only the first time on Friday.
Not the start the Gunners wanted
It was a bright start from Arsenal, was Giroud forcing a great save out of ex-Inter Milan and Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Júlio César from his near range header.
Yet it was the Portuguese champions who scored the first goal, within the first ten minutes, with a low shot from Franco Cervi taking a small deflection off Mertesacker and slotting past David Opsina to give the Lisbon based side the lead. Pizzi's ball over the top deep into the box was headed back into the mix by Eduardo Salvio to Cervi for the Argentine to slot home with the help of the German.
Arsenal pushed for an equaliser and this pushing paid off when Kolasinac makes a great tackle forcing Pizzi off the ball. His great work forced César out wide, and the Bosnian put in a good cross to Walcott who volleyed home. A first Emirates assist for the former Schalke man, who registered the most assists of any defender in the Bundesliga last season with five.
Arsenal kept on pushing for a goal and from a strong counter attack Walcott was brought down on the edge of the box by Eliseu, who received a yellow card. The resulting free kick was taken by the Englishman who was brought down but came to nothing as his low strike hit the wall in the wind and rain of North London.
Arsenal turn it around
Kolasinic and Walcott combined again for the second goal less than ten minutes before they had combined for the first. The defender played in Francis Coquelin in a typical "Wengerball" move, who threaded a low pass against the face of goal to be tapped in by Walcott for his second of the first half. The Frenchman who was struggling with injury after a clash earlier in the game that required medical treatment was taken off soon after, replaced by the Egyptian Mo Elneny.
With Arsenal leading the game could easily have ceased to become a contest and Arsenal could have dominated the game itself. Yet it was Benfica who were able to get back into the game, mainly as a result of gross defensive errors from Arsenal. Just three minutes after Walcott put Arsenal ahead a mistake from Holding put in Pizzi, who was also involved in the first goal, who forced a strong save from Ospina.
It wasn't long before Benfica were back ahead however. A combined mistake by Mertesacker and Maitland-Niles lead to an attack on the Arsenal defence by Benfica, with Sílvio slotting home with the help of a deflection from Holding.
Gunners in second half rampage
The second half started as quickly as the first. A ball back in from Granit Xhaka, after the original cross was headed away, to Walcott, who was clearly onside, who tried to slide it to an unmarked Giroud at the back post. Second half substitute López tried to clear but on the slippery surface could only redirect the ball past César into his own net.
Not too long after a great hold up play from Giroud allows him to slide it in to Walcott, who was on a hat-trick, who messed up his left-footed shot which goes high over the bar, spurning a great chance to put Arsenal 4-2 up.
It wasn't long however before Arsenal were two goals to the good. A great cross in from the youngster Nelson, who too had one of the stand out performances of the day for Arsenal, found Giroud who extended one of his long legs and volleyed home.
A great save from Cesar to deny Giroud after another great piece of build up play from the home side was another close moment for Arsenal.
A fifth came a quickly as the fourth had come. Kolasinac, passed to Giroud twelve yards out, who taps it back to Iwobi, who scored his first Arsenal goal on the first day of the Emirates Cup two years ago. The Nigerian fired his curling shot from 15 yards into the roof on the net, with nothing that the Brazilian goalkeeper could do about it.
Even though they had been hit for five Benfica refused to lie down. A low drive from the edge of the area from Pizzi forced a fingertip save from Ospina.
The 72nd minute heralded a tsunami of substitutions, however most notably it was the moment that Lacazette made his Emirates debut. His first steps on to the his new home pitch in North London was greeted with the biggest roar of the day by the Arsenal fans. He was involved in much of the Arsenal movement as they, and Benfica for that matter, push for more goals, which due to the format of the tournament that gives a point for each goal, can make all the difference. No more were to come, but the fans at the Emirates were treated with a stellar Arsenal performance and got value for money with a seven goal thriller.
Ben Yedder penalty gives Sevilla win
Before Arsenal's clash with Benfica, Sevilla played last season's Bundesliga runners-up RB Leipzig in the first game of the tournament. The game clearly wasn't a classic, with Wissam Ben Yedder's first half penalty being the only goal of the match. The game was clearly wasn't a classic, with chances being few and far between in the overcast setting of North London's Emirates Stadium.
It leaves Sevilla with four points (three points for a win and one for the goal), with tomorrow's match between Arsenal and the Spanish side taking on extra importance as it looks like it will be one of these sides that clinches the title. After their win Arsenal are on eight points, Benfica, despite their loss on two, and Leipzig making up the numbers with zero.
Benfica end their Emirates Cup campaign against Leipzig in tomorrow's early game, before what is highly likely to be a coronation for Arsenal as Emirates Cup winners again against Sevilla.