Barclay's Asia Trophy: Size doesn't matter

Barclay's Asia Trophy: Size doesn't matter
Singapore's goalkeeper Mohamad Izwan Bin Mahbud (L) hits the ball away from the goalpost during the 2018 FIFA World Cup football qualifying match between Japan and Singapore in Saitama on June 16, 2015. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.
PHOTO: AFP

Arsene Wenger believes that small countries like Singapore have a chance to shine in football at the international level.

Using Iceland as an example, the Arsenal manager said that the Republic should not feel "intimidated" just because it has a small population of only about 5.5 million people.

"The only advice I can give to a small country is not to be intimidated by the fact that they don't have the numbers," Wenger, who will arrive in Singapore with the Gunners today for this week's Barclays Asia Trophy, told The New Paper in an e-mail interview.

"One of the most important principles in developing players is the concentration of players by square kilometre.

"Look at the example of Iceland. Iceland has about 330,000 people but, today, they are top of the Euro 2016 qualifiers Group A including Turkey, Holland and the Czech Republic.

"That shows you that the numbers are not decisive, but the quality of the development of the young players and how much you can get the best to play against the best is."

SURPRISE

Indeed, the Nordic country's national team have been punching well above their weight in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Five wins and one loss from six matches put them top of Group A, with a couple of victories especially eye-catching (3-0 against Turkey and 2-0 against Holland).

Singapore's national team went through a sticky patch in the first half of the year, before the Lions ended a six-month winless spell with a 2-1 win over Bangladesh in an international friendly on May 30.

Recently, there have been encouraging signs, especially the shock 0-0 away draw with Japan last month, a result which put Singapore top of their second-round 2018 World Cup qualifying group.

Meanwhile, Wenger stressed that he is treating the Barclays Asia Trophy in Singapore as an important part of their preparation for the gruelling Premiership season ahead.

He said: "A preparation that is not serious does not give you any hope.

"It's a very serious preparation and we'll take this Barclays Asia Trophy very seriously.

"The players compete for places in the team at this stage of the season as well, so (fans) can be absolutely reassured on that front that it is a serious competition."

The 65-year-old Frenchman also gave the thumbs-up to the format of the competition.

Holding a tournament in one place allows his players more time to focus on their preparation, he added.

He said: "I feel it's closer to the start of the Premier League and it is also different in the fact that we stay in one place and do not have to move.

"That is a massive difference because before we had trips where we spent three or four nights out of seven on a plane.

"When you get to your last game, you are not completely in a good state to guarantee a performance and I believe it's the best possible position for us to combine serious training and serious competition."

Arsenal take on a Singapore Selection side on Wednesday, before facing either Stoke City or Everton three days later.


This article was first published on July 13, 2015.
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