WTTGT Writer: Vivek Arulnathan
Arsenal FC club have embarked on their first international tour of Asia in 12 years, where the club has a passionate and growing fan base. For all the negativity surrounding Arsène Wenger and his young troops, this pre-season tour to the Far East is a much needed change of atmosphere for the Gunners as they prepare to mount a serious title challenge in the coming season.
Arsenal will start their campaign against a Malaysia XI in Kula Lumpur today and then will travel to Hangzhou, China, where they will take on the Hangzhou Greentown on Saturday. The arrival of one of the best clubs in world football is a welcome relief for Malaysian football, after the recent match-fixing scandals have engulfed the nation’s football fraternity.
On the other hand, this is a tour of immense significance for Arsenal. Wenger is under a lot of pressure to deliver in the transfer market and also has the tough task of keeping his stars from preying eyes.
The wonderful world of Asia is not going to help him sign players, but there are certain issues that can be addressed in this short campaign.
Convincing Nasri to stay:
While Nasri has been quite vocal about his trophy ambitions, a move away from Emirates for the Frenchman is far from imminent. Wenger has stated that he would ‘like’ to retain the Frenchman’s services next season and it is believed that the manager will hold talks with his want-away star during this tour.
It looks like Wenger has decided to take a huge risk with the player being in the last year of his contract and the possibility of him leaving on a free next summer. With Wenger confident about signing some quality players, he might try and convince Nasri to stay with the belief that his team will finally win a trophy this season.
He might then offer Nasri a contract and the Frenchman will be happy to sign for a winning team in which he plays a major role. There are several risks involved, but you never know, it might just work!
Fitness and team spirit:
These matches hold little significance in footballing terms for Arsenal’s first-team. Malaysia and Hangzhou will provide little resistance to Arsenal and the results are probably a foregone conclusion. But Arsenal have other issues to focus on.
After the summer break, this is a chance for the players to get match fit and an opportunity for the staff to assess the fitness levels of the squad. With the speculation surrounding Nasri and Fabregas, Arsène Wenger has a lot of spirit lifting speeches to make during this tour.
Apart from trying to convince Nasri to stay, Wenger needs to bring back the motivation in the team. Last season’s ending would have easily destroyed the strongest of morale and so Wenger has to make the team believe in itself and get back the confidence.
This is also a chance for the players to gel more as a unit and start believing in themselves, as well as their team-mates. These tours will always help the players to get to know each other well, since they’ll be away from family and friends. It builds a team spirit that will always come out when the morale in the team is low.
Miyaichi, Frimpong, Jenkinson and Traoré:
While Arsenal have named a strong 23-man squad for the tour, it is highly probable that the youngsters will be given a chance to prove their worth. With Almunia and Bendtner left out and Eboué and Fabregas injured, this tour holds a lot of significance for the four youngsters mentioned above.
Miyaichi did extraordinarily well at Feynoord for someone coming out of school football and this is a chance for him to show Wenger that he is ready for a first-team spot.
New arrival Jenkinson is an unknown commodity and will get a chance to showcase his skills. It would be a pleasant surprise if he turns up and challenges Sagna for a spot in the team.
Traoré will be given the opportunity to compete for the slot vacated by Clichy, but he needs to perform well to become the first choice left-back ahead of Gibbs.
Frimpong was on the verge of breaking into the team last season, before a knee injury almost ended his season. We all know how good he is and this tour is a chance for the youngster to stage a comeback and become a first-team regular.
Financial and marketing gains:
Arsenal are bound to earn a healthy profit from this tour, for otherwise the board wouldn’t have arranged this campaign in the first place! Apart from the profits, sale of merchandise will surely go up in Asia after this visit which will generate a lot of revenue.
It is also a great chance for Arsenal to market their club in a growing business avenue. The Asian market is relatively new to European football and Arsenal’s decision to travel there is a brilliant move. It will allow the people of Asia to know there is more to football than just United and Barcelona.
Arsenal’s already healthy fan base is bound to grow once the Gunners put up a show of beautiful football on Wednesday. And a successful tour gives a chance for more serious ties with these countries and the chance to attract the best young talents there.
Apart from China and Malaysia, Arsenal have a chance to spread their wings in countries like Korea, Japan and India. These are unexploited markets and the future of football in these countries is bright. And with half the world’s population in Asia, talent is undoubtedly present and Arsenal will have to exploit these resources before the “big boys” come flashing their cheque books.
After two months of Wenger-bashing and over a hundred transfer targets, it is a relief to see Arsenal on the pitch again. Back to another season of beautiful football and oh! some trophies too.
I am an eternal optimist!