By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger is relishing his return trip to China and a chance to be reunited with some of the most knowledgable Arsenal fans in the world.
The manager will take his squad on a tour of Asia later this month, kicking off with a friendly in Malaysia before further matches in China and Hong Kong.
Wenger is no stranger to the continent having spent two years with Japan’s Nagoya Grampus before he moved to England - but even he was taken aback by the reception for Arsenal last summer.
"The first shock in China was how quickly the country has developed," reflected Wenger.
"But the second thing for me was how much people know about our club. When we are in China it was unbelievable. I had a press conference at Hangzhou and people in the room knew more about Arsenal than I did!
"Another surprise is how passionate people are about sport over there. The mystery remains for me that, in a big country with such a big passion, why do China not have a fantastic football team?"
Wenger thinks the gateway to a successful China national side lies in education.
"My advice would be more to educate players," he said. "Why? Because if you are a developed country it means you have manager material in your country.
"To lead a company or to manage a football team requires the same qualities, apart from the technical side. You have that in China, but what you do not have is the quality of the players. Why in a country of 1.5 billion people is there no Messi or no Ronaldo? That is the real problem and that is just down to education and grassroots football.
"My advice to Chinese football is more to structure the coaching system between five and 12 years old because football is a technical sport and you need to have access to technique at a very early age.
"After 12 years of age if you have no technique then you will never have it. That is very important and that goes through the schools and the football clubs."
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