The team continued to train as normal over the weekend, but on Sunday evening the pitches were opened to the public, and more than a thousand fans cheered on the session.

It was the first chance for the locals to see their beloved Gunners in action and, occupying the upper tier at the modest Mizuho Rugby Stadium, they came up with interesting and elaborate ways of obtaining autographs. The fans lowered down shirts and photos on string for the players to sign, then hoisted them back up to their seats.

Fans lowered shirts down on pieces of string
Fans lowered shirts down on pieces of string

Training itself was fast paced, with the players split into three teams for small, sharp matches. Steve Bould made up the numbers in one of the teams, marshalling the defence like we were back in the 1990s.

Training was followed by a soccer clinic for 150 Japanese schoolchildren, arranged by Nagoya TV. Arsenal's Paul Johnson was joined by coaches from the JFA and Arsenal's Japanese Soccer Schools to conduct the drills, while Ryo's brother, Tsuyoshi, helped out as ballboy.

So the weekend ended as it began for the players - with a tough, high-intensity workout. On Saturday morning the players had been put through a host of different running drills in the searing heat, before cooling down in ice baths.

The players cooled off in ice baths
The players cooled off in ice baths

The evening's training was purely football-based though, with Grampus Nagoya coach Dragan 'Piksi' Stojkovic watching on.

After training on Saturday the team went into town for a meal, at one of Ryo Miyaichi's favourite Nagoya restaurants. It was the first 'night off' the players have had since leaving London more than a week ago, and they were afforded a more relaxing Sunday morning too - the usual training session was replaced with pool and gym-based exercises in the team hotel.

Preparations have been intense in Japan so far, but Monday evening promises the stiffest test of the tour so far, when Arsène Wenger's men take on J League side Nagoya Grampus.

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
Josh James 21 Jul 2013