Asia Tour Insider - Day Twelve

Tour Insider

The Arsenal tour bandwagon rolled on into Saitama on Tuesday, where the team will spend three nights before concluding the Asia trip with a game against Urawa Red Diamonds on Friday evening.

The 70-strong tour party - including players, coaches, backroom staff and support staff – left the Nagoya hotel shortly after lunch and boarded a high-speed train to Saitama.

The Shinkansen, or Bullet Train as it is known, whisked the players towards Saitama at speeds of up to 180mph. A couple of hours later the team arrived at the city centre hotel, and after a quick snack it was straight into a signing session with a couple of hundred local fans.



All the players except Lukas Podolski and Ryo Miyaichi were in attendance. Instead those two joined Arsène Wenger and Ivan Gazidis for the welcome press conference in the adjoining room.


The majority of the squad attended a signing session

The majority of the squad attended a signing session


The boss said the game would be an opportunity for some of the up-and-coming players who have travelled with the squad to get some exposure, hinting at a less experienced starting XI to that fielded against Nagoya on Tuesday, especially as there are slight fitness doubts over Laurent Koscielny, Wojciech Szczesny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.


The boss, Ivan Gazidis, Lukas Podolski and Ryo answered questions at a Saitama press conference

The boss


If Arsenal's visit to Nagoya was a homecoming for Ryo, then this trip to Saitama should bring back happy memories for Podolski.

Arsenal and the Urawa Red Diamonds will play for the Saitama City Cup on Friday, and it was in that competition that the German forward scored a brace to help his former side Bayern Munich take the title in 2008.

Manchester United, Barcelona and Inter Milan are among the other big names to have faced the Red Diamonds for the Saitama Cup over the past 10 years, but only that Podolski-inspired Bayern team and the Barcelona side of 2005 have ever taken the trophy back to Europe - a measure of the task facing the Gunners this Friday.

After the media and fan commitments were over, it was time for dinner and rest ahead of what promises to be a tough day on the training pitches tomorrow, with morning and evening sessions planned at the Komaba Athletic Stadium, here in Saitama.

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