By Chris Harris

Some clubs prefer to rack up the air miles on long-haul summer tours but Arsenal have found exactly what they need rather closer to home.

This week, Arsène Wenger and his squad made the relatively short hop to Austria for their pre-season training camp. These are familiar surroundings for the Frenchman and his players - it's the eighth summer in succession that Arsenal have used this European base.

Two warm-up matches are planned before a rather tougher friendly against Stuttgart next Monday but, in essence, this is where the foundations are laid for the arduous campaign ahead.

"What happens is whenever we get there, we have a block of about nine days," explained assistant manager Pat Rice earlier this summer.

"Obviously that is interspersed with a few games but this is when we can get some good, hard pre-season training into the players which will help them and make sure they are in good shape for all of the season. Not just the start of the season but the whole campaign.

"Some managers think there is no problem with that [long-distance summer tours] but we are not one of the clubs who go down that route.

"Our Austria training camp has proved very successful for us for the coming seasons because we have always been in the top four and we think the preparations we get there is good for our young players."

It's all a far cry from the pre-season preparations which held sway in Rice's playing days. This particular Arsenal legend was taken on as an apprentice in December 1964 and recalls a very different summer regime.

"It is a completely different mould from when I did pre-season training," he said.

"I remember when I first started as a boy here we used to do walking. We used to out on the roads in the afternoon and we used to walk because some of the coaches there had been in the Army and that's what they used to do when they were training.

"We are a million miles away from that now. There is a lot of core-strength work which goes into the players. There is also running but nowhere near the same degree as we used to run for. And of course there is a lot of gym work and strengthening work which goes on, plus all the ball work."

After a week at their home from home, Wenger's squad will certainly be fine-tuned when the serious stuff starts in August.

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22 Jul 2008