Pigs can fly!
At least that’s what I thought when I saw Arsenal’s recent announcement of our pre-season plans.
Apparently we’re all set to fly out to Singapore in July to compete in this year’s Barclays Asia Trophy.
This all sounds very sensible, right?
Then you hear the part about the opposition: a Singapore Select XI, Everton and…
…Stoke City “Football” Club!
They’re not exactly the opponents Arsene Wenger would choose to face in pre-season – in fact, it’s hard to believe he would choose to play them any time other than the unavoidable competitive fixtures, given the increased likelihood for injuries and all round thuggery towards our players just as they return from their summer breaks feeling nice and relaxed.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom – facing the Orcs in preseason can actually be a good thing.
Hear me out.
1. It’s a great opportunity for our players to practice their hurdling techniques for avoiding shocking tackles.
2. It puts the physios and medical staff through their very own pre-season, practicing dealing with injuries that will inevitably crop up.
3. It allows us to get some of our glut of injuries at least part out of the way during pre-season, while the consequences are small. Players will still have a month until the season proper starts to make at least part of a recovery.
4. It’ll give us a chance to stuff Stoke and psychologically scar them for the season ahead so that they will hopefully get relegated.
5. It will allow the fans in Asia to see us in a very favourable light when they contrast our style of play with Stoke’s. They’ll be able to see the difference between our free-flowing football and their lump-it-long tactics with their very own eyes.
6. Arsenal’s commercial team will be rubbing their hands with glee at the new fans they will likely attract as they see Arsenal as some kind of super-club in comparison. You don’t have to look that good, as long as you look better than your opposition!
In fact, reasons five and six don’t actually require us to face Stoke, merely to be seen in relative proximity.
The format of the tournament is two semi-finals with the respective winners and losers of each tie facing each other in a final and a third place play off.
It’s not been announced yet who Arsenal will face in the opening game, but with a bit of luck, we won’t be forced to play the Potters.
For all the “positive” reasons to face them, it would be better to leave Singapore without a player in plaster.
We can hope anyway.