INDICATOR: Malaysia and Arsenal have different motivation
IT may be a friendly but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal see today's match as an important indicator towards achieving their respective targets in the English Premier League (EPL) and AFF Cup.
For Wenger, the Gunners' failure to win a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup, has overshadowed their remarkable consistency in recent years.
As for Rajagobal, the former international has had better fortune of late, guiding his team to the 2009 Laos Sea Games title and the 2010 AFF Cup.
Wenger feels that critics often overlook the fact that his side have qualified for the Champions League for the last 15 seasons, an achievement he feels that shows how consistent they really are.
"We are here (EPL) to win trophies and we have a team that's competitive. But we are in a league that's extremely competitive," said Wenger.
"The fact that the team (Chelsea) that finished fifth last season won the Champions League shows you how competitive it is. It's the same again this season. We've shown remarkable consistency but now we want to add the trophies.
"Sometimes, our consistency isn't recognised due to lack of trophies but I have said before we are one of only three teams who have qualified for the Champions League 15 seasons in a row."
Arsenal kick off their Asia tour against Malaysia today, before taking on EPL champions Manchester City in China and Hong Kong's Kitchee next week.
"Last year, the stability of our squad was challenged. This year, we have small problems. We have a squad who are solid and used to playing together.
"Last year, we lost not only two players in the transfer market but also two more through injury in pre- season -- Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere. We lost Tomas Rosicky on top of that. It was too difficult," added the Frenchman.
New signings Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud are among a dozen first-team players not on the tour, and Wenger has vowed to maintain his faith in promotion from the youth ranks, naming Serge Gnabry, Chuks Aneke and Benik Afobe as the three teenagers to watch this season.
"We are the team, certainly the only one in the world at elite level, who give chances to young players. That's why I believe Arsenal are loved all over the world," Wenger said.
Rajagobal, meanwhile, is using today's match to gauge players and tactics ahead of the AFF Cup in November.
"I want to see my players' reaction and approach as we do not often get to play Arsenal. This match will be a perfect build-up for our AFF Cup campaign and I am still in the midst of finalising my squad.
"We let in soft goals in last year's 4-0 defeat to Arsenal ... I do not want that to happen again tomorrow (today). As the AFF Cup defending champions, I want my players to show their true mettle and give them (Arsenal) a tough time," said Rajagobal.
The team, however, will be without defender Asraruddin Putra Omar and goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat while centreback Fadhli Shas and strikers Safee Sali and Shakir Ali are doubtful.
"Safee looked fine during training yesterday (Sunday) but it is tough to say when you have an ankle injury while Fadhli is also down with a similar injury," said Rajagobal.