Arsenal summer plans confirmed as three former Gunners set for sensational north London return

Granit Xhaka is set to play against Arsenal after two August friendlies are announced against Bayer Leverkusen and Lyon
-Credit: (Image: Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Arsenal are set to face Lyon in this season’s Emirates Cup on Sunday 11 August. Arsenal will also play Bayer Leverkusen in a separate friendly several days before on Wednesday 7 August.

A traditional yearly friendly for the Emirates Stadium, it returns for just one day in an official capacity. Arsenal have taken on two sides in the past across a single weekend without the gap in between but being so close to the start of the season, the decision to play a second friendly which is not officially part of the Emirates Cup a few days before allows for more recovery time between games.

The interesting choice of both opponents is their links with the Gunners. Leverkusen, newly-crowned Bundesliga champions and Invincibles, achieved their success with the help of former Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, who will return to north London to play for the first time since his summer 2023 departure.

Speaking after the conformation that Leverkusen would compete with Arsenal in the Champions League next season, Xhaka said: “If I’m honest I don’t want to play against them.

“Everyone knows what a beautiful seven years I had there. But if it’s to happen then I’ll be sure to enjoy it.”

Well, whilst it won’t be in a competitive sense yet, the Swiss international will seemingly be involved against his old side sooner than he imagined. Plus, he will not be alone.

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Lyon of course have more than one former Gunner on their books with both Alexandre Lacazette making their first playing-related return to the Emirates too. Both players left when their deals with the club expired, Lacazette in 2022 and Maitland-Niles the following year – both signing with the side that would finish sixth in Ligue 1 last season on a free transfer.

Lacazette has enjoyed something of a renaissance of his career back in France. He has scored a rather staggering 53 goals across all competitions in 74 games for OL.

It were these types of numbers which attracted Arsenal and Arsene Wenger to sign Lacazette in 2017 but sadly he could never replicate the form and the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would further that issue.

However, there is a chance that Lacazette could miss the Emirates Cup clash. Thierry Henry selected Lacazette as part of France's Olympic squad for the tournament held in Paris from July 24 to August 10 and therefore he may not be back with his club side by this point.

These games are a great chance for supporters to see their first game considering the clamour for tickets for competitive games. For those not in attendance, will be providing match coverage for both games on August 7 and 11.