By Nick Lellenberg
Each and every night lasting friendships are made and friends are reunited, sometimes for the first time since the previous summer. Arsenal Americans meet Vienna Gooners. Arsenal Slovenians see their old friends from Arsenal Croatia. The Trondergooners from Trondheim, Norway, reunite with the Bergamo Gooners from Italy. And, of course, the Dover Gooners are everywhere - trademarks of Arsenal pre-season trips in Austria.
Some supporters clubs plan short-sided games with one another, and Arsenal America & Norway defeated Arsenal Austria 8-4 - for what was Arsenal America’s first ever victory, I believe.
There is also the opportunity, if one times it correctly, to meet certain members of Arsenal Football Club.
Players sign autographs outside when coming off and going onto the team bus, but they are even obliging within the small stadium itself, provided that training for that session is over.
The Arsenal America banner, which has made the trip over the last two seasons after a five year hiatus, is now covered in signatures courtesy of players taking the time to sign it after practice, and is a crowd favorite.
A certain highlight of every training session is Wenger’s ride into and out of practice on his bike, always stopping for an autograph or a picture. Some make themselves available for small talk as they go about their business - from the club photographer to Eboue, naturally, to Wenger himself.
As the camp progresses and players begin to distinguish themselves in training, expectations begin to rise and goals are set by the supporters. Some see the Premier League title as realistic with one signing more, others are concerned another disappointing third or fourth place finish in on the horizon.
Regardless of the overall strength of the team, certain players made their mark. Samir Nasri amazed in training and translated that to the friendlies. Emmanuel Frimpong made an argument to become Alex Song’s back-up in the midfield. Jack Wilshere seems to have more bite in his play following his time with Bolton. Each player had the opportunity to seize their chance and some did so without hesitating, others did not impress as much as I’m sure they would have liked.
Another pre-season in Austria concluded and, while the American influence in the Club grows and there is no World Cup or European Championships next summer, I hope that come next spring I can book my airfare back to Austria and see my extended Arsenal family once again.
» Part 1: Camp Overview
» Part 2: Autographs and Impressions
Nick Lellenberg has been Arsenal fan for six years and is a founder of the Boston Gooners. This was his second visit to Arsenal's training camp in Austria.Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source