A busy start


With a daily planner packed with events morning, noon and night, our USA editor Kevin Mooney runs through Thursday's standout moments...

Arsenal's first full day in New York was a busy one. After getting adjusted to a new continent and time zone, things shifted over to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, for the pre-match press conference. Arsene Wenger, Mikel Arteta and Wojciech Szczesny represented Arsenal, but first up were New York Red Bulls coach Mike Petke and the King himself, Thierry Henry.

Playing against Arsenal isn't new thing to Thierry - he spoke of how special it was to play in the Emirates Cup a couple years ago - but seeing first-hand on numerous occasions how dedicated the Arsenal fan base in New York are, he said of Saturday's friendly, "The thing I am most happy about is for the US fans to be able to see Arsenal."

Thierry also commented on how important this game could be for some of his younger teammates with the Red Bulls. "Some of the guys were not here yet when we played Arsenal at Emirates so I think it will be great for them to play against a team like Arsenal Football Club."

And not that we need any reminder where Arsenal sit in his heart, when asked about his fondest Arsenal memory, he said, "Wearing the shirt was a privilege for me and its unbelievable. I feel like a different man when I wear that shirt."

His emotion really came through after the press conference when he came out to mingle with the Arsenal players and coaching staff during the training session. The man was simply beaming. Even if you didn't know his history with Arsenal, even if you never heard him say it, the smile on Thierry's face when he greeted old friends showed what Arsenal means to him.

The training session itself was a wonder to see. We already know how freakishly talented the players are; we see them on TV week in and week out. But watching them from that close dramatically changes your perception.

I have always marveled at the photo galleries of training sessions we see throughout the course of each season. They perfectly capture the players' concentration and intensity of the workouts, but until I witnessed training first hand, I never had a true sense of what happens on a macro level.

The best words that come to mind to describe training are speed and intensity. The players go at full tilt and move straight from one drill into another. And even the basic drills - say, something akin to a sort of rotating game of keep away - were done with remarkable precision under the watchful eye of both the boss and Steve Bould.

Following training, we packed up and headed over the IZOD Center to prepare for the Arsenal Fan Party. Now, we knew that several thousand fans would be in attendance. We knew that the audience would include some of North America’s most passionate supporters. But when we pulled up to the arena more than an hour before the doors were to open, it was a pretty unbelievable sight.

Fans had been lining up for more than two hours at that point. The line stretched several hundred yards and Arsenal chants echoed through the crowd just as they would at Emirates Stadium or inside a packed Arsenal pub like New York's Blind Pig.

Inside, the main event of the night came after some PUMA giveaways, a Q&A with representatives from Arsenal Ladies and a video re-cap of the 2013/14 campaign. The crowd went wild as six Gunners were introduced: Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs, Gedion Zelalem, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey.

The incredible reception from the supporters led into an entertaining Q&A with questions from fans in attendance and via Instagram and then dozens of lucky supporters got the opportunity to show off their basketball and keepy-uppy skills in a variety of competitions.

The event wrapped up with the four supporters clubs - Arsenal America, Arsenal NYC, Arsenal Canada and Philly Gooners - giving awarding their Player of the Year honors to Aaron Ramsey.

It was the perfect welcome for the club - and an even better introduction for the fans.

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