How has the Far Eastern tour helped in our pre-season preparation?
The bald facts are: Played 3, Won 1, Lost 1, Drawn 1. Hardly an inspiring set of results. The matches were played in dense humidity (Kuala Lumpur), pouring rain (Beijing) and dense humidity (Hong Kong). Not the sort of climatic conditions to be expected in our first three Premiership matches of the fast approaching new season: The Emirates, Stoke-on-Trent and Liverpool.
Accepting the fact that a number of players were left at home due to various reasons, fitness, late return from the Euros, doubts about future availability etc. these games were never going to be about playing the strongest possible team, but to utilise the number of players that Wenger did (21 against the Malaysia XI, 19 in the Manchester City clash and 21 again while facing Kitchee FC) seemed to further degrade their importance.
This mix and match approach to selection cannot possibly help in team building. As was so clearly demonstrated last season the defence, at least, needs to be a settled unit.
There is no doubt that Emirates Airlines provided the best possible level of comfort for the squad but a round trip of something like 16,500 miles is pretty exhausting in itself.
In previous years a trip to an Austrian ski resort with some low key friendlies and the chance to train at a modest altitude was the most that our manager would sanction, now it seems the well-being of the players takes second place to the desire to make the most of “The Brand” and to sell shirts back into the countries where they were probably manufactured in the first place.
There is just one more friendly scheduled, away to FC Cologne on 12th August. It is to be hoped that by then the van Persie situation will have been resolved, a signing or two will have been completed and we will be able to field a fair facsimile of our strongest XI.