by Nia Griffiths
Martin Keown has been speaking to the official Premier League website about Arsenal’s impending tour of Asia this pre-season and describes the atmosphere in the Far East as one of the best around.
The former defender, who played in 365 matches during his Arsenal career, described his time in Asia and how the reception was out of this world.
“The Barclays Asia Trophy will be electric,” he told revealed. “I played in Japan, China, Malaysia and Bangkok and every time I played in Asia the atmosphere was incredible. It’s a real buzz for the players because the reception you get is so warm. I thought I’d retired but when I went to Shanghai last year I felt like one of the Beatles. And Singapore will be no different. The fans there are incredibly knowledgeable about their football and passionate about the Premier League.”
The former centre-back continued, “As soon as the players see the welcome they get when they touch down in Singapore, it’s almost hysteria, and that warmth will be reciprocated by the players. When they see that response it’ll give the matches that extra edge.”
Also taking part in the Barclays Asia Trophy tournament are Premier League teams Everton – the Arsenal legend’s old club – and Stoke, which Keown says is important, not just in terms of the tournament itself but also pre-season training. Facing Premier League opposition early on can be a great indicator of where you need to strengthen and what you need to change within the team.
“It’s nice to play against other Premier League opposition because you don’t often get that chance in the build-up to the new season. I’m expecting there to be a high intensity to the games, due to the atmosphere the fans create and the pace of the English game anyway.
“The players will want to put a show on for the fans but also because there is competition for places; you’ve got to want to be in that starting XI. In pre-season training you’re demonstrating to your manager the sharpness that you have. Have you still got the ability to be a first-team player?”
Keown went on the describe how Arsenal will approach the matches, saying, “The planning and preparation will no different than for a competitive match, there are even Premier League referees coming over so the people of Singapore are going to get a taste of the real action and how it really is.”
Arsenal’s first match of the competition is against Singapore Select XI.