LIGHT-HEARTED: Takes dig at Rajagobal and commends him for a good show last year
ARSENE Wenger teased national coach K. Rajagobal when they were introduced at the Arsenal Asia Tour press conference in Subang yesterday.
"Malaysia gave us a hard time last year. Congratulation to you (Rajagobal)... you are still in-charge ... you must be good. I wish you well on Tuesday (tomorrow)," said Wenger jokingly.
Rajagobal, who sat next to Wenger, smiled at Wenger before responding a few minutes later, informing Wenger that he has been a coach with the FA of Malaysia (FAM) since 2002.
"I've been coaching for a long time and it is a great job. It is sometimes tough but I like doing this. I also get the opportunity to sit next to a manager of a top club like you," said Rajagobal.
Arsenal, who thrashed a Malaysian XI 4-0 just a year ago, arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday to once again play a pre-season friendly against Rajagobal's side at Bukit Jalil Stadium tomorrow but Wenger admitted it will not be an easy game.
"It was a tough game (last year), because usually we lack sharpness at the start of our preparations. In Asia you get mobile teams who are very enthusiastic.
"They have the opportunity to play against players they usually watch on television, so they don't make it easy for you. They will want to show they have improved from last year," said the Frenchman.
Wenger said pre-season matches, wherever they take place in the world, are vital to his squad's preparations for the new season.
"We go now into the stage where we play football, and this helps us to be sharp again, tactically to get organised and of course to find our fluent game again. The key target is to be ready on Aug 18 -- these games help us get ready," he said.
Wenger said the tour will help foster solidarity and add to the sense of togetherness within the club.
"We are here firstly to share with you the way we see and play football. Secondly, to prepare for a season that we hope will be very successful and thirdly to test Malaysia, who promise us a hard time.
"It is an opportunity as well that people may not realise because we travel as a group of people from the club, and we can be together with people on the tour that we do not have the opportunity to spend time with during the season.
"The players will realise that this is a real organisation, because usually when the season starts, we live in a bubble and just focus on the next game.
"So it creates solidarity inside the club and the team, because we stay together and it is (usually) difficult in modern life to spend a lot of time together," he said.
Defender Per Mertesacker and new signing Lukas Podolski are among the players who did not travel with the team.
"I left Podolski and Mertesacker out as they only reported for training yesterday (Saturday) following their involvement in Euro 2012. I have, however, brought a top quality squad here," Wenger added.
Rajagobal has named a mixed squad of seniors and youth players for tomorrow's match.
"I definitely want my team to produce a better performance than last year. We should make use of this opportunity as we do not often play a world class club," said Rajagobal.
Malaysia are using the match to prepare for the AFF Cup in November.
The Arsenal squad: Vito Mannone, Ignasi Miquel, Chuks Aneke, Thomas Eisfeld, Marouane Chamakh, Ryo Miyaichi, Craig Eastmond, Nico Yennaris, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Francis Coquelin, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Song, Lukasz Fabianski, Carl Jenkinson, Theo Walcott, Wojciech Szczesny, Johan Djourou, Benik Afobe, Thomas Vermaelen, Abou Diaby, Andre Santos, Gervinho, Mikel Arteta, Kyle Bartley.