Arsenal’s pre-season tour to Singapore always generates fanfare amongst the passionate fans in South East Asia and this year is doubly intriguing given Unai Emery’s appointment as Arsene Wenger’s replacement.
But if that wasn’t enough, Mesut Ozil’s personal issues with the German Football Association and his decision to quit the national team has added further sub-plot to the tour.
Arsenal are not Germany, however, and it is this feeling that the club wish to promote in the immediate aftermath. Speaking to the media on Wednesday prior to a training session at the local Singapore American School, both Petr Cech and Unai Emery conveyed their support of the star attacker on behalf of the squad.
"We will support him and make sure he feels right..."
“For him, it is one thing with the national team and another with us. With us, we want to give him normality. This normality helps him to feel good and I am sure he will have a good season for us.”
This comes after Ozil’s three-part statement on Twitter and Instagram in which he defended his meeting and picture with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, going on to criticise those disrespected him on grounds of racism, targeted at DFB President Richard Grindel, in particular. His decision to quit the national team was jarring, if not surprising.
Emery was quick to suggest that the German has been training well since he joined up earlier this week, and that he and the club are doing their best to make him feel at home.
“He is doing nicely every day, training well with partners,” said Emery, who will need Ozil to be on top form this season. “We want him to feel good with us.”
It’s a feeling supported by veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech, who conveyed that Ozil will remain valued at Arsenal and is an important player for the club. “Ozil has his personal issue with the German FA, but he is an important player for Arsenal. We will support him and make sure he feels right to perform at his best.”
Such public support from his club is reassuring and indicative of the squad’s reaction to the situation.
It is naturally best that they move away from this quickly in order to focus on the coming season, and they seem likely to keep Ozil away from the spotlight, with their handling of the situation in line with Emery’s overall professionalism since taking over.
In the larger picture, Emery’s focus on one mentality is reflective of the overall positivity in the squad, as could be seen in their training drills today. He’s made a good impression on all so far.
Likewise, Emile Smith Rowe has made an impression on the Spaniard. Quizzed on the youngster, he spoke about his potential. “He has a bright future at this club. It was a club recommendation for him to join this tour. He is improving and is near to showing his quality in the first team. I am happy with him.”
Cech battling for number one jersey
It felt indicative that Arsenal sent out Petr Cech in particular to face the media in a ten-minute open interview. The goalkeeper has been linked with a return to Chelsea, in the face of added competition from new signing Bernd Leno.
He said that he will do his job, as always, and do his best to compete for the starting spot. “I still have one more year of contract at Arsenal and the club is counting on me. My position is the same, I am concentrating on my job to keep the number one jersey,” he said. “There’s been no contact with Chelsea.”
Arsenal are making the right noises off the pitch so far, and so is the welcoming and engaging Emery. Whether that translates onto the pitch has to be seen, but on the basis of the training session, Arsenal are bound to entertain in the ICC games as well as in the season to come.