July 12, 2013

And just like that, the close season is all but over.

Many of the players returned to Colney for pre-season training six weeks after Arsenal closed out the 2012/ season in Newcastle. It started with just light running and some resistance training, but by the end of the week they were doing ball work.

It all marked the opening of pre-season which quickly turned into the Asia Tour for 24 members of the squad. The line-up for the games in Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan is a mix of key veterans and youngsters hoping to make an impact. There were a few noticeable absentees. Thomas Vermaelen picked up a back injury and was left behind, as was Gervinho due to sickness.

Seventeen hours after leaving the UK, the squad landed in Jakarta on Friday morning to begin the first leg of the trip. If there was any doubt over how big of a deal this trip was to Indonesian supporters, that was quickly dispelled by the thousands of fans that greeted the squad at the airport.

The stop in the world's fourth most populous country culminates with a friendly against the Indonesian Dream Team on Sunday. After that, the squad moves on to Vietnam where they will be the first ever Premier League team to visit that country.Our guys take on the Vietnam team on Wednesday July 17. Be sure to stay tuned to Arsenal.com for all of the tour updates.

Back at the home base, plenty has been going over the past several weeks. Starting from the top, Arsenal have a new chairman after the resignation of Peter Hill-Wood. The former chairman had been at the helm since 1982 and a director for 51 years. He was the third member of the Hill-Wood family to serve in that role. Sir Chips Keswick, who will now take a seat in the really big five-legged chair, is a lifelong fan and has been a director since 2005.

In terms of player comings and goings, it has been mainly goings so far. The Club has parted ways with Andrey Arshavin, who is now headed back to his former club Zenit St. Petersburg, and goalkeeper Vito Mannone who signed for Sunderland. Meanwhile two players headed to Germany on loan with Johan Djourou joining Hamburg and SC Freiburg taking midfielder Francis Coquelin.

In the other direction, Arsenal officially announced the signing of up-and-coming French striker Yaya Sanogo. He won’t meet up with his new teammates until after the tour as he is currently on international duty for U20 World Cup in Turkey. The 20-yer-old's early career has been plagued by injuries, but in his last season at Auxerre, he managed 10 goals in just 13 appearances. He has been given the No. 22 shirt.

Speaking of shirts, amid huge fanfare, the Club unveiled the new away kit for the 2013/14 season. And I don’t mind saying it is downright lovely. Arsenal's 'British Core' of Theo Walcott, Jack WIlshere, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson  helped introduce the shirt which is a return the Club's traditional yellow-and-blue motif. It even features a collar so you can wear it out to fancy restaurants! It's available for pre-order now and will hit the shelves on August 1.

Finally, the 2013/14 fixture list was also released, and Arsenal were handed an opening day home match against Aston Villa on Saturday August 17. Key dates to focus on (as of now anyway… we know how these things can change) the first leg of Champions League Playoff will be held on either August 20 or 21 with the second leg one week later. Domestically, the big games kick off early with the home version of the north London derby on Sunday September 1. March looks to be the toughest month on paper with trips up the Seven Sisters Road and to Chelsea, before a home clash against Manchester City.

Looking ahead, Arsenal have the aforementioned games in Indonesia and Vietnam plus two games in Japan the following week. After that, it's a return to London for Emirates Cup before a final warm-up match against Man City in Helsinki.

Get ready, Gooners -- the season will be here before you know it!

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Kevin Mooney 12 Jul 2013