Post Tour Fan Party.

July 28, 2013

Morning folks. As you know Friday marked the official end of the Asian tour as the squad flew directly back to London right after the game, arriving home in the small hours of Saturday morning. But, for us Gooners in Japan the tour came to its conclusion yesterday evening with a double header all-you-can-drink drunkstravaganza in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.

The level of planning for the event was really impressive, as was the turnout. It just goes to show that those who say that overseas Arsenal fans are somehow less of a fan, due to their geographic location, are talking out of their arse.

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You could argue that the level of dedication needed to be an overseas fan is higher as games that are a lunchtime kick-off in England will start eight or nine hours later in Japan, 3pm games will kick-off at 11pm or midnight, 4pm games at midnight or 1am, 5:30pm games at 1:30am or 2:30am and finally the midweek 8pm games will start at 4am or 5am. I’d love to see how many of those that moan about overseas fans would consistently watch games which start at those times, especially when working the next day.

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In attendance at the unofficial fan party was fan favourite, Maria Petri, who gave the crowd what they wanted – two songs. It’s really impressive that she made the trip to Japan, basically by herself. She’s a really nice woman and, considering she is now 74, you have to admire her dedication to all things Arsenal.

Maria Petri – Ikebukuro fan party song 1. July 27, 2013.
Maria Petri – Ikebukuro fan party song 2. July 27, 2013.

It has been a great few days to be a Gooner in the Tokyo area and an experience which many will remember for a long time to come. Here’s hoping that the club returns to these shores again next year as, while the tour can be regarded as a success, there is still plenty of room for brand and presence building in Japan. For purely selfish reasons, I’d love to see the team just do a tour of Japan next year and play friendlies in Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama and Saitama. That would minimise long-haul flights and would allow the team to dedicate more time to proper training. Though I’m sure our Gooner friends in America will be hoping that the team begins trying to make an impression Stateside. However, I feel that there is a much greater scope for commercial improvement in Japan than America as football and baseball are the two biggest sports here.

Okay, that’ll have to do for today. As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @colm_smyth.


Urawa Red Diamonds vs Arsenal – Match Report

July 28, 2013

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Arsenal completed their Asia tour by lifting the Saitama City Cup with a victory over Urawa Red Diamonds at the Saitama Stadium in Urawa, Japan. The game was probably the most challenging of the tour and it would have given Arsene Wenger plenty to think about when deciding what state his squad is going to be in for the coming Premiership season.

Urawa brought plenty to this tight game and that was reflected by the 2-1 scoreline. Both teams gave a good account of themselves in the first half. The first meaningful shot came from the hosts in the 7th minute when Urawa midfielder Umesaki shot just wide after a lucky deflection off Jack Wilshere. Arsenal’s first clear chance came in the 8th minute. Decent buildup play from Miquel, Arteta, and Jack resulted in a low shot from Theo which came off the post. Urawa should’ve made it 1-0 in the 9th minute when the ball was hammered in low from the right, only to see their star man, Marcio Richardes, bundle it over. No doubt it was a massive let off for the Gunners.

In the 11th, Gnabry failed to capitalize on a mistake from a Urawa defender when he was clean through. He contribution was once again very good, though. Urawa were targeting Ignasi Miquel and one of several attacks on the right led to a shot just over by Ugajin. Arsenal had a great chance in the 26th minute and were starting to look a real danger. An attack, starting from Theo and then an Oxlade-Chamberlain dummy, led to a chance for Giroud on the right. However, instead of choosing the easier option of sliding it across to Gnabry, he chose to shoot. It went woefully over, much to the Frenchman’s frustration. This was followed by a lob on the run, again from Giroud, after a great pass from Arteta.

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In the 34th minute, Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the bar after some uncertainly from the Urawa keeper, trying to palm away Mertsacker’s knock-on from a corner. Urawa threatened in the 43rd minute with a decent shot from Ugajin, again after pressure down the right. Fabianski pulled off a decent save which had a touch of the Hollywood’s about it, but Urawa were proving they were up for the fight.

The second half saw some changes with Ramsey, Jenkinson, Miyaichi, Podolski, and Rosicky coming on. The changes had an immediate impact. Arsenal went 1-0 up in the 46th courtesy of a Podolski volley. A deft trap backheel from Rosicky found Oxlade-Chamberlain, which was then received by the energetic Aaron Ramsey, who then found Theo with some space in the box. A little flick from Theo to Poldi was enough for the German to put the Gunners ahead.

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Rosicky was a real menace with his driving runs. Ryo was trying his best to conjure something up, and he made a few runs at the Urawa right back. Unfortunately, despite his efforts, he was more Gerv than the Ronald side of the “-inhos”. Theo broke through in the 52nd minute, and he really should’ve done better with the one-on-one with the keeper.

Then came Urawa’s equalizer. Arsenal played zonal on a Urawa corner from the right. A lucky deflection dropped to Abe and he lofted it high to Fabianski’s right. There followed some Urawa pressure – Miquel caught out of position on the right saw two Urawa players beat the offside trap, leaving only Fabianski to come to the rescue. Arsenal looked a little shellshocked, and could well have given away a penalty when Jenkinson looked to have handballed in the box – Japanese commentator hilariously screaming: “hando!!” All protestations were waved away, however, especially from the Urawa boss going apeshit on the touchline.

It looked like Arsenal had lost a bit of command in the midfield, with Jack and Arteta being replaced at half time. Urawa were enjoying their best spell of pressure leading up to and after the goal, a Koscielny interception and a shot over just about keeping the scores level.

Chuba Akpom Arsenal Urawa

Arsenal needed to respond. The momentum returned when Oxlade-Chamberlain burst forward with a powerful run in the 66th minute, skipping challenges on the way, and finished it off with a low right foot shot hitting the post. Ox was replaced by the graceful wunderkind Zelalem in the 68th minute and the powerful Akpom replaced Theo in the 74th, both looking ever so slightly Brazilian in the stunning new yellow and blue away kit.

Then came Arsenal’s winner. A speculative ball in the 82nd minute found its way to a Urawa defender’s head, who tried to give it back to their unsuspecting keeper, resulting in it being palmed directly into the path of young Akpom. If there ever was a case of, “Here you are, sir. Would you like anything for dessert?” this was it. The youngster slid it in to the empty net, prompting the guy sitting next to me to sing “We’ve got Akpom. We’ve got Akpom. Who needs Suarez, when we’ve got Akpom?”

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The last few minutes passed without much of a threat to either goal. Ramsey had a shot teed up by Rosicky and Sagna made a good interception on Richardes, which led to a run and shot from Ryo.

Wenger said at the end:

It was a very interesting game with a lot of commitment. And overall I think Urawa Reds played very well. We missed many chances but it was a good preparation for us.

So, mission accomplished for Arsenal – leaving Asia with a 100% record. Some good performances from young and old(er) alike. Hopefully the reception Arsenal got during this tour will persuade them to come back again. It was wonderful for the fans in Japan to get a glimpse of the team. Next stop the Emirates Cup. Come on you Gunners!

Arsenal line-up: Fabianski; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Miquel; Arteta, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Giroud, Gnabry.

SUBS: Szczesny, Martinez, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Rosicky, Ramsay, Olsson, Aneke, Miyaichi, Eisfeld, Zelalem, Podolski, Akpom.


Asian Arsenalisation.

July 26, 2013

Here is the first post by new site contributor @TheRisingGun. Enjoy.

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With games in Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia, Arsenal’s global branding strategy couldn’t be any more obvious – world domination! Ok, not so much but it is certainly no coincidence that the Club are making positive inroads into this market, one which has possibly some of the most fervent and obsessed fans around. Preaching to the converted from afar works to a point but a lot of clubs are now actively pursuing the riches of the Asian market, knowing full well what rewards there are from capturing the imagination of young fans, as well as the importance of sealing sponsorship deals with locals brands.

The most successful EPL clubs have had a decent share of the market for a while in East and Southeast Asia, but when you spot middle-aged Japanese men sporting Man City shirts it’s hard to ignore that the Risk-like battle strategy for Asia’s football-related economic territory is clearly well underway.

Clubs visiting Asian countries for pre-season friendlies:

Arsenal (Indonesia; Vietnam; Japan)

Chelsea(Thailand; Malaysia; Indonesia)

Liverpool (Thailand; Indonesia)

City (China)

United (Japan; Bangkok; Hong Kong)

S’land (China)

Spuds (China)

In Japan, where baseball dominates and football comes a close second just above sumo and golf, there is a growing sense that one day “The Beautiful Game” may eventually take over as the most popular form of sporting entertainment. It seems football is pretty much consuming everything in its path, Borg style. So it’s not surprising that so many more people are turning to it, with top teams chasing the big bucks in emerging markets pretty much everywhere.

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The momentum of Arsenal’s global brand, which sits 6th in revenue generated behind Bayern, Man Utd, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Chelsea, shows no signs of slowing, and I for one as a Gooner living in Japan am relishing the idea of being able to see my team in the flesh, rather just the usual affair of silent fist-pumping celebrations at 1am, watching the game in a house with paper thin walls, unable to express excitement at a last ditch Kieran Gibbs tackle.

Not only are Arsenal making economic inroads and gaining broad coverage in Japan on a large scale, they are also tapping into the soccer school market too. This year for the first time, Arsenal will be bringing their brand of footballing expertise via a summer training camp, where young Japanese hopefuls will get to chance to be coached “the Arsenal way”. Obviously this doesn’t come cheap, with a five day course costing around £700 (this includes English lessons), but there’s no doubt that the training will be top class, and I am hoping this will be a regular feature over here for years to come (will give me enough time to save up for when my boy is old enough to join!).

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Arsenal defeated Nagoya Grampus (Arsene’s old club) 3-1 on July 22nd, before facing Urawa Reds – “Japan’s Man Utd” today, July 26th. Hopefully Arsenal will make Asia, and especially Japan, a regular feature of their pre-season tour. Probably not the best preparation, having to travel half way around the world for a kickabout, but you get the sense that the Club clearly recognizes the potential of this financial goldmine. It’s whoever get a stronghold first. Come on you Gunners!

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http://player.arsenal.com/matches/174360/Nagoya-Grampus-v-Arsenal/player/3710-ljungberg-exclusive

Twitter:  @colm_smyth  &  @TheRisingGun


A new beginning. Again.

July 24, 2013

Not sure where to start really. It’s been ages since the last post went up on this site, about two years. A lot has happened since that post. We got rid of a Dutchman whose little boy inside him turned out to be a little cunt. We have offloaded the majority of our deadwood this summer and off the top of my head I make it that there is just Park, Chamakh and Bendtner left that really need to be shifted off the books so that we can put their wages to better use. There’s probably around £150,000 per week to be saved there which, incidentally, would pay the salary of a certain bitey Uruguayan.

 

It would be fair to say that our pursuit of Suarez has divided opinion, between those very willing to accept him baggage and all and those, myself included, that can see that he would be a great signing in a footballing sense but that his baggage is quite a big concern. I don’t want to get on my high horse about it as we have had players in the past that have been no angels. There was Adams and his drink driving, Merson with his trifecta of addictions and there was Vieira spitting at Ruddock. There is probably some healthy debate to be had over the whole should we, shouldn’t we, sign Suarez. I’m not sure there is a clearly definable right or wrong position to take on it because at the end of the day it comes down to personal feeling and opinion. I know that if we sign him, I won’t get his name on a shirt but I will continue to support the team and I will celebrate his goals because, at the end of the day, he’d be helping The Arsenal.

 

Right, that’s enough on that for now. I don’t want to go too far down the Suarez rabbit hole – is that an innuendo? Hope not. (It probably is)

 

As I sit here cobbling this together we are a tad over 24hrs away from the team and fans Q&A event in Urawa. Actually, I’m calling it a Q&A but I am not really sure what it is. It might just be a meet and greet. The only thing I know for sure is that I am going to be attending it and also the open training session that will follow later in the evening. I can’t wait. I also have an extra pass for both events and will give details on it at the end of this post. So, have a look and if you are in Japan, have a go.

 

I will be attending the event with the site’s new contributor @TheRisingGun. We’ll both be making a dash from work in north eastern Tokyo to Urawa for the event. Ecstatic. Really can’t wait. Living in Japan, life is spent watching games at unsociable hours so to have the team on our doorstep is amazing.

 

2013 has been a good year to be a Gooner in Japan. We had Freddie Ljungberg here a month or so ago and now we have the team here for two friendlies against Nagoya Grampus and Urawa Reds. Sadly, work commitments prevented me from attending the game in Nagoya. I’ll be making up for that with three days of Arsenal this week, starting tomorrow with the Q&A and open training followed by the game against Urawa on Friday evening and finishing up with a fan arranged drinking session in The Hub, Ikebukuro, from 2pm this coming Saturday. If you are in Tokyo and have no plans, come along and join in the Arsenal related festivities. Warning: the will be drunkenness.

 

@TheRisingGun will have a post up tomorrow or Friday talking about Arsenal’s push into Asia, so please check it out and give him a follow on Twitter. He’s a top bloke.

 

Competition time.

I have been promised an extra pass for tomorrow’s open training session and team/fans Q&A. So, if you are currently in Japan and can get to Urawa station by 3:30pm tomorrow afternoon (event starts at 4:30pm) this is what you have to do. Simply answer the question and state why you think you should get the pass instead of someone else. Send your answer and reason for deserving the pass to: thenorthbankblog (at) gmail (dot) com.

Question: Who am I standing next to in this picture?

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(Yes, a blatant shoehorning of my having met Freddie into the post.)

That’ll do for today as I’m still feeling my way back into this whole writing thing again.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can find me: @colm_smyth