Since the 3-0 defeat to Chelsea, the fans which seem to over analyse every single thing the club do, those that act as if they are scouts, coaches, managers, doctors and players, have now over analysed our pre-season tour of Australia and China.
Going to China and Australia
A big question they have asked is Why have Arsenal gone to Australia and China? The simple answer is money.
It is fairly obvious why teams, and not just Arsenal, travel the globe on pre-season tours. Money and to build the global brand.
I am fully on the globalisation of the modern game has ruined it for local fans bandwagon, and I would rather the Chinese stuck to their Super League, Australian’s stuck to cricket, and American’s kept inventing sports that they win at because they do not let anyone else play.
But the modern game is what it is. The elastic has broken. There is no going back. I will not sit and accept it, but I will understand why clubs do what they do.
The actual pounds, shilling and pence sides get from these trips abroad is not grand, but the money flows down from the brand building exercise. The extra shirts sold, the extra fans who start following the club.
It creates a buzz in these countries as well. One look at Twitter to see how excited Sydney based fans were about Arsenal coming to town. These might not be die hard, week in week out fans that are the ‘norm’ but they are fans none the less. They get up at silly o’clock to watch a game. They save the price of a season ticket just to get a flight to the UK to watch us play Stoke.
Sides have even started doing post-season tours (although teams were doing these 2 decades ago as well). And trips to China are not a new thing. In the 90s, Arsenal had an infamous trip to Hong Kong.
And it is not just English sides.
Arsenal played Bayern Munich in China. Manchester United played Real Madrid in America.
I am not a fan of them, but if playing these sides means there is no 39th game, I can support them.
Why Chelsea? Why not Barnet?
When I used to play Football Manager, I used to organise a yearly tour of the UK, where I would pit my awesome Arsenal team against half a dozen non league teams. I would win every game 30-0 with Cherno Samba scoring 50-odd pre season goals. It was a bit of fan. And most importantly, it was a game.
I see Arsenal fans complaining that we are playing Chelsea in China rather than Barnet in Britain.
The simple answer once again is money, and brand building (I actually hate this, we are not a brand, we are a football club, but as I said above, the elastic is broken).
Arsenal v Chelsea was live on ITV on Saturday lunchtime. If Arsenal played Barnet, it would not have been shown anywhere.
Also, surely the more competitive a game, the better, in pre season.
When I used to do a tour of the lower leagues on Football Manager, it did not really matter the games were uncompetitive, as it was just a game.
If Arsenal did the same, players would be unprepared, under cooked. There is simply no value playing a lower league side and spanking them.
When Arsenal used to play the likes of Barnet, the side would often me a couple of senior players who were not yet fully fit, and a lot of youth.
Arsenal’s U23’s are set to play both Borhamwood and Leyton Orient. So Arsenal are not ignoring their local lower league sides, they are merely sending the youths out for games which will sell-out.
I would much rather see the team get a slightly more competitive run out against Bayern Munich and Chelsea, rather then see our senior players playing in Barnet or Leyton.
Why not play Lacazette 90 minutes, every game?
One laughable I comment I saw was a plonker saying “Why hasn’t Alexandre Lacazette played the full 90 minutes”. Well again, it is pre season.
Overplay a player, and he gets injured, the same attention seekers will probably be moaning that he has been over played.
Lacazette played 22 minutes against Sydney in the first pre-season game. He started against New South Wales, before being substituted with the rest of the starting XI after 66 minutes.
On the tour of Australia, every senior player got a full 90 minutes, spread over the two games. In the first the starting XI were taking off after 66 minutes, in the second, every player who didn’t start the first, started, and got subbed after 66 minutes.
Better to ease players in, giving them time split across a few games, then a full 90 minutes one game, then nothing the next. It reduces the chance of them going into the dreaded red zone.
Against Bayern Munich and Chelsea, Lacazette got 45 minutes in each game.
Pre-season is about getting the squad fit and ready, if Lacazette played 90 minutes, every game, like some want, it would mean the likes of Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck would miss out on game time.
It is important to get every player in the squad fit, and limit the injuries.
Why were we jaded?
The excuses came out from Arsene Wenger after the defeat that the players were jaded. This got everyone’s back up and got people demanding “why are we jaded in pre season”. Simple answer really. Training.
Anyone who has ever done any competitive sport to a high level (and I am talking about more than just playing Sunday League football) will understand what it means to truly train for a competition.
You have peaks and troughs in training. Times when you are training hard, other times when you take the foot off the pedal. You end up tapering for a certain competition.
For someone like Adam Peaty, the world record breaking British swimmer, he would have tapered his training and peaked for the weekends gold medal attempt.
Had he has the world’s at the weekend, but also been asked to compete a month ago, he would have said that he was tired, not fully prepared. And this is because he would have been at the height of his training.
At the minute, Arsenal are trying to get prepared for the new season. There is no point peaking for a pre-season game against Chelsea. The side would have been doing intensive double training sessions to get ready for the first game of the season. The players will be tired. Their muscles still filled with lactic acid from last nights training session.
A team like Arsenal do not want to peak for the first game of the season. They want to be peaking in about March, when hopefully we are in the title race still, the players will be in peak condition ready to run away with it. In theory.
In the past, the likes of David Moyes at Everton and numerous managers at Spurs got their teams to peak from the first day of the season. This meant that they accumulated a lot of points pre-Christmas, but ran out of steam at the business end of the season.
You also see a lot of the lower clubs aim to peak earlier in the season, to get the points on the board so that they are ahead of the relegation battle curve.
I have no issue with Arsenal being tired at the weekend, as it just means that they are training hard.
Why take youngsters?
Finally we come on to the youngsters who are out on tour.
The likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Connor Bramall at times looked out of their depth against Chelsea. This lead many critics to moan that they should have been left at home with the U23s where they belong.
Well this is another key point. It is pre-season. It is a chance to take a handful of youngster to see if they are good enough, close to being ready, to perform with the first team.
People (probably the same people) moan that youngsters do not get the chance, then they moan that they should not be given that chance. Pre-season is the perfect time to blood a handful of youngsters into the first team squad.
With Arsenal set to have Europa League and League Cup games in the first half of the season, getting an early look at some of these youngsters is important.
Reiss Nelson looked good, looked sharp. He was a positive. And highlighted exactly why you take these young players in tour.
3 weeks ago, Reiss Nelson was just another Arsenal youngster. Now everyone is exited to see how he will develop in the lesser competitions. And this would not have happened if he did not get his chance at pre-season.
It is very easy to read too much into pre-season results, but the important thing is not the results, but that we are prepared. Not prepared for the Emirates Cup, or even the Community Shield, but prepared for Leicester at home on Friday 11th August.