EPL: Wenger's S'porean scouting mission

EPL: Wenger's S'porean scouting mission
TEAM SPIRIT: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger (right) hopes that the trip to Singapore will help his team bond.
PHOTO: Reuters

The Barclays Asia Trophy is a good chance for Arsenal to suss out two of their Premier League opponents next season, said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger ahead of the pre-season tournament in Singapore next month.

The Gunners, last season's FA Cup winners, will be taking part in the quadrangular competition alongside fellow English Premiership sides Everton and Stoke City and a Singapore Selection side at the National Stadium.

Wenger, 65, is also keen to use the trip as a team-bonding exercise for his side as they prepare for a title assault in the coming season.

Said the Frenchman, whose side finished third in the league last term: "You have, already in your mind, the battles you could have for the coming season in the Premier League with these kinds of teams, but it's interesting as well because you know how strong they will be.

"It is a little advantage to know how strong they will be, what they've done and what you have to expect in the next season.

"It's always a good experience as well to be together for a while and get good team-bonding during a period away from home.

"It has many advantages, the only disadvantage in fact is the travelling, but the rest is very positive."

But it won't be all about football when the Gunners arrive here.

As midfielder Jack Wilshere pointed out, this trip is a good chance for the players to meet their large Asian fan base.

Said the 23-year-old, who scored a magnificent double to help England to a 3-2 win over Slovenia in a Euro 2016 qualifier last Sunday: "The main thing is seeing our fans over there.

"We know what a big following Arsenal have over there.

"We have been over to Malaysia before, and China, and the support over there has been fantastic.

"We know that they wake up at ridiculous times in the morning to watch us and support us. And the love we get through social media is fantastic.

"So, we are looking forward to seeing our fans."

The fact that his team are expected to reach the Barclays Asia Trophy final, where either Everton or Stoke await, should help ensure that the players won't be treating this trip as a holiday.

Asked if playing a Premiership team ups the competitiveness of a pre-season game, Wilshere said: "It probably would be, because the Premier League is the best league in the world.

"It is the most intense and aggressive, so it probably will be."

Everton will take on Stoke City in the opening match of the tournament on July 15, before Arsenal play Singapore Selection later in the day.

The winners of these two games will meet in the final on July 18, while the losers face each other in a third-place play-off.

WHAT: Barclays Asia Trophy

WHO: Arsenal, Everton, Stoke City and a Singapore Selection side

WHEN: July 15 (Wed) and July 18 (Sat)

WHERE: National Stadium

Ticket prices for July 15 range from $25 (Cat 4, child) to $145 (Cat 1). Prices for the event's final day on July 18 range from $28 to $155.

Tickets can be bought at www.sportshubtix.sg, the box office at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and all SingPost outlets.

This article was first published on June 17, 2015.
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