Arsenal for the first time in many years are going on a pre-season tour purely for commercial benefits. This year sees them visit Malaysia and China for two pre-season friendlies. The last few years have seen the team go on quiet, yet effective pre-season training and friendlies in Austria and Hungary among others. But with football becoming more and more of a commercial battle between the top teams, Arsenal have been forced to buck their own trend and join the others in utilizing the pre-season for not only increasing the fitness of the players but also increasing its commercial value over the world.
Asia for long had been an untapped market for English clubs. Being from Asia myself, I know how crazy my city would become if any team from Europe was to visit. While this is a good opportunity for Arsenal, it will result in the decrease of local fans attending said matches. It was reported by someone in the AST the other day that only 25 or so season ticket holders are making the trip to the far east to watch the team. While the rest can catch these matches online or on TV somewhere it will definitely disappoint fans in England no doubt.
“Fab-Less Gunners” heading for the article was used by a Malaysian Daily to announce the arrival of Arsenal. We have all known for a while that Cesc would indeed be left behind to train in private while negotiating a transfer with FC Barcelona. A mysterious injury has forced him to do so and while we understand why this is being done, we should have taken the captain as this is a commercial trip after all. Frankly his presence would have been enough to make more of an impact with the locals.
Nasri’s ongoing saga
In other team news, Nasri has been included in the 23 man squad and did travel with the team. Frankly his inclusion does not necessarily indicate whether he will or will not play at the Emirates next season. It does indicate his willingness to stay with the team and play for us but at the same time Veron was sold from Manchester United to Chelsea on their pre-season tour which sort of indicates anything may happen. Nasri was excellent the first half of the season and though his season dovetailed along with the fortunes of the team, we can all agree he is indeed a fantastic talent and we would all like him to stay for many years. Should that be at the cost of the wage-structure Arsenal have? Maybe not. If what is being reported in the media is true, breaking the bank for his stay is definitely not worth it, even more so if we do get a replacement of similar calibre, say someone like Mata from Valencia.
The long, long, long awaited transfer of Gervinho has not been completed in time for his inclusion in the squad for the tour. He has, by accounts of the press, had around a thousand medicals until now and the reason for the delay is probably the paperwork as is being reported. Bendtner and Almunia have not travelled as well, which indicates that they are likely staying back to negotiate transfers away. That is definitely good news and hope this happens sooner rather than later and will also give the club the impetus to sign replacements.
Denilson is included and frankly it is a disgrace he has been after what he said toward the end of last season. Wenger has always been quick to defend Denilson and if memory serves right pointed out to his 93% pass completion as an indication of his effectiveness in a particular game. But passing the ball backwards is not a trait that is in high demand.And even that would have been forgiven if he had the anticipation and tackling of someone like Makelele or Song, alas that is evidently not the case.
The Young Guns
Arsenal have included the new signing Carl Jenkinson who moved from Charlton this summer. He is a versatile defender and would fill a couple of gaps in defence. His age is probably his only weakness but if he can kick on from his form at Charlton there is no reason he can be a very good signing for us. Also included is the fast, dynamic winger Miyaichi, who had a blinder of a season at Feyenoord last season. For a kid to go straight from school to one of the “Big-Three” in Netherlands,and do as well as he did is a testament to the raw talent he possesses. A work-permit, although hard, will be something to hope for this summer.
All in all, a good squad has been chosen. The midfield is a little light but manageable for the two games.
Arsenal play Malaysia XI on the 13th and Hangzhou Greentown on the 16th of July.
Both matches will be available in the new Arsenal Player, which received some much needed improvement earlier this summer. My only hope is that the squad is much improved come the end of this transfer window.
Full Arsenal squad - Asian Tour 2011
Wojciech Szczesny, Vito Mannone, Sebastien Squillaci, Johan Djourou, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Laurent Koscielny, Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Ryo Miyaichi, Armand Traore, Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna, Theo Walcott, Alex Song, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Denilson, Aaron Ramsey, Emmanuel Frimpong, Samir Nasri, Carlos Vela, Robin van Persie