For an oversea Gooner like me, once a while Dennis Bergkamp decides that I should get rewarded. The last time that happened was in 2005, when Arsenal won their last major trophy. Yesterday the throngs of South East Asian Gooners and I was rewarded again. Arsenal was in town and I was not going to miss this for anything.
The day started with an early breakfast 9am with 2 other Gooners to map out the entire days’ plan. Obviously that started out at the airport where the Arsenal team will first touch down at Kuala Lumpur. Having reached the airport at 10:30am, we were still close to 2 hours earlier than the anticipated time of arrival, it was no surprise to find that no crowd has gathered yet.
But to our annoyance, someone from the event organizer came up to us and asked us to leave. Reason given was that the team has already landed and are now heading towards their hotel for the press conference. Which is really odd because we via airport contact that the flight was supposed to reach at 12:30pm. Deciding not to risk the chance, we headed straight for the hotel. Halfway through the journey, we found out that we’ve been duped (I will get you back someday, I remember faces well).
But we were immediately rewarded by our decision as we were the first to arrive at the hotel. Who did we found loitering around the lobby, but the group of journalists from England whom we’ve read so much articles and conversed on twitter. Unfortunately, I only managed to recognize the face of John Cross from the Daily Mirror. This lead to some jealousy amongst the other esteemed colleagues and in particular Jeremy Wilson (only joking Jeremy).
There was another decoy laid out by the organizers at the entrance to the conference hall. Laying out a path of red carpet from which looks like the players can alight direct from the bus and into the hall. Detecting something was amiss with this, we decided to spread the group to well positioned places around the hall. We were proved right when Arsene Wenger, Robin Van Persie and Bacary Sagna entered via a different route.
Inside the hall, it was littered with journalist from all over the region and those which I mentioned earlier. The latter batch had front row seats and as pointed out by John, they received some good humour from Wenger. The standard questions were thrown at the manager. The future of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri being central to those questions. We received a typical response from Wenger, sounding resolute about his plan to keep both of them at least for the coming season. However, we’ve seen this statements in the past before and it doesn’t mean that the player would not be moved on. Until that happens, we’ll just have to take Wenger’s word for it.
Then, somewhat out of character, Wenger announced the capture of Gervinho. That we’ve signed the Ivorian international. However, he also mentioned that Gervinho has only just returned from holidays and needed training to get up to speed. Something, which Wenger pointed out that he might not get by coming for this tour. Those in the hall were the first to hear confirmation of Arsenal’s 2nd signing of this transfer window and it was put up later on the official website.
The questions then shifted to the Malaysian team officials, lead by head coach K. Rajagopal. The local interest was felt as this match (together with the subsequent Liverpool game on Saturday) was seen as a good training for the national side before the upcoming World Cup 2014 qualifier against Singapore. The only downside was when Wenger was asked what he knew about the Malaysian team and he said he knew nothing. Could’ve done some PR here and perhaps said some videos were watched.
Next thing on the agenda was a private session individually with Wenger, RvP and Sagna. The only one I managed to join in was the one with our right back. The poor selection of questions by everyone else inside the room meant that I’m not going to mention it here. However, I was given a chance to ask whether he has seen new signing Carl Jenkinson in action and whether he was looking forward to the challenge.
No, I’ve not seen him in training yet. I’ve just came back from holidays. But it is always good to have someone who can challenge you. It helps to raise my own game. I will just have to be better to maintain my place in the side. However, if he (Jenkinson) proves to be better than me, I understand losing my place.
The last item on the agenda was the meet and greet session for supporters. This time the entire team joined the event and the supporters were able to get the players to sign memorabilias. The session was short as we were only allowed to enter in batches. Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Thomas Vermaelen, Johan Djourou and Emmanuel Frimpong were the most friendly ones. Jack Wilshere, Robin Van Persie, Marouane Chamakh, Wojciech Szczesny and Kieran Gibbs looked very tired from the long journey. While Samir Nasri wore the look of someone who wants to be in another place, hardly raising any smiles. You will find some of these pictures on my Twitter time line.
That’s all for today. More to come tomorrow.