We’re All Going On An Asian/North American Tour?


Remember. You read here first at arsenalinsider.com. I first blogged on the possibility of Arsenal chief executive officer Ivan Gazidis persuading Arsčne Wenger to swap his favoured Austria as the club’s base for pre-season preparation for lucrative trips to Asia and North America. I first blogged on this on your super, soaraway arsenalinsider.com back on Friday 21 August 2009. 
It appears that those assiduous seekers after truth at the Daily Mail have finally caught up with us here at arsenalinsider.com towers. The Mail on Sunday’s chief football writer Rob Draper had a piece on the mailonline website this past Saturday saying that Arsčne may been convinced that he can achieve his pre-season preparation goals other than in the Austrian Alpines.
I have no objection to this at all. I blogged back in August that either the Colorado Rapids facilities at Dicks Sporting Goods Park (for Dick’s think DW Sports or Sports Direct International in Britain) in Commerce City, a suburb of Greater Denver or the Air Force Academy facilities at Colorado Springs, would fit the bill for Arsčne’s requirements. I’m sure Silent Stan Kroenke would be delighted too, given Arsenal’s tie-up with the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer which he owns.  
Denver is at 1,600 metres. Colorado Springs is a little higher at 1,800 metres. Perfect for altitude training which is why the Air Force Academy facilities are so popular with Olympic attitudes. There is the question of the increased travelling time (about a ten hour flight from London to Denver, versus a couple of hours to Austria) and the increased time difference between Mountain Daylight Time and British Summer Time, seven hours behind Britain rather than Austria which is only one hour ahead. This needs to be very carefully considered. The players will need at least a week to re-adjust following the jet lag of a long flight through seven time zones. 
Given the normal “slot” in July/early August for the pre-season training camp and friendlies this should be doable before arriving at the start of the serious business of a new season. We normally play three friendlies in pre-season training on the continent. This could be easily replicated with a game on the West Coast of the USA against either an MLS club or another touring European team (Los Angeles Galaxy recently drew over 93,000 to the Los Angeles Coliseum for a pre-season friendly against Barcelona back in early August (the Spanish season starts later than ours). The West Coast is only a short flight from Denver. A midweek friendly back at base against the Colorado Rapids followed by a last friendly on the East Coast or Eastern Canada would work, especially with the last game breaking up the long journey back to Blighty into two stanzas. 
The altitude of Denver and Colorado Springs, both in the Rocky Mountains on the Great North American Continental Divide, means summer temperatures even at midday seldom exceed 24 degrees Centigrade. Ideal for pre-season training. 
What we must ensure is that the tail doesn’t end up wagging the dog. I’m happy with this idea PROVIDED the manager can be convinced that he can get what he needs out of pre-season preparation without sacrificing its essential purpose to money-making. If we can make good money and spread the Arsenal doctrine with these trips without starting the season with the players flat on their backs from fatigue rather than raring to go  then all well and good. That’s why I’m more sceptical about Asia. Japan as an example is nine hours ahead of Britain, a longer flying time than Colorado and the summer temperatures can get as high as 35 degrees Centigrade. 
Admittedly the additional travelling time and time zone difference isn’t that much compared to North America (which also gets extremely hot in the summer months at sea level), but we don’t want the players consistently losing weight and strength training and playing evening friendlies in sapping temperatures and the high humidity which marks most of Asia, especially in the summer months. 
Perhaps a good compromise would be to alternate trips to North America and Asia in non-World Cup/European Championship years to decrease the burden on the senior players. One trip to each continent every four years would be enough to build up expectation and interest without over-egging the pudding which is easy to do. An occasional trip to South Africa or South America too might be interesting too, especially as a) European clubs almost never go to South America these days and b) it’s the southern hemisphere winter is at its peak in July so there’s no issue with high temperatures, the weather is perfect for football. Both have the issue of long flights but not with time zones. The Atlantic side of South America is four hours behind Britain and South Africa is two hours ahead of us. 
There is the complicating factor of the Copa América which is held every other June/July in odd-numbered year (next up to host is Argentina in 2011), but this shouldn’t present too much of a problem. All in all though provided the manager is firmly in the driving seat and dictating terms for any such ventures and moulding them into a coherent pre-season plan aimed at maximising our preparation for the coming season rather than tour receipts then I can’t see the harm and can see the upside from a commercial point of view.
On the continued ownership battle The Sunday Times reported in a piece by Wayne Veysey yesterday that Silent Stan Kroenke that he still owes £50 million of the £100 million he lashed out on buying shares from the Bracewell-Smith family and Danny Fiszman. The piece quotes a “source close to the board.”  Call me a nasty old cynic but I think this piece is more likely to be a plant from Alisher Usmanov spin control. The fact that Kroenke bought the shares on tick is no secret. It was announced on the PLUS website (the market on which Arsenal Holdings shares are listed). Usmanov seems to have got his spin working after displaying all the public relations instincts of Pol Pot early doors. It is a sad fact of life that perception rather than reality seems to count for all in this 24/7 media world we all live in. Was that canny Canadian Marshall McLuhan ever right when he said, “The medium is the message.” I’m not chairman of the Stan Kroenke Fan Club but as regular readers of my blog know I’d rather ingest my own pooh that see Alisher Usmanov owning my beloved football club. Jabba the Uzbek gives me the creeps.
We don’t seem to have suffered any devastating injuries in this past weekend’s international fixtures, although Theo Walcott was taken off at half time in the England Under 21 game with a dead leg. It doesn’t appear to be serious however. Fingers crossed for Wednesday’s games! Oh, and Wales lost. Again. Doh!
Keep the faith!

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