The last time the two sides met, Emmanuel Petit sent a left-footed grounder for the Gunners' second goal past Azmin Azram Aziz who had earlier saw Nicolas Anelka's effort find the net. Malaysia's most impressive performer on that night was Zami Mohd Noor...so if you look at the souvenir programme, it was as if the organisers knew Manu and Zami were to be the stars of the night!
Arsenal supremo Arsene Wenger made his way to Kuala Lumpur today, for the third time since 1999. I remember vividly as he walked out of the dressing room at the National Stadium, I tried to elicit a hearty response from the man from Alsace with this question: "Arsene, having worked with some of the best players in Europe like Klinsmann, Djorkaeff, Bergkamp, Overmars and Vieira, who do you think is the best among them?"
Typical of the Frenchman, he did not give a direct answer and simply said he has had the good fortune of working with great professionals. Then I tailed Anelka, asking him a few questions which he did not bother to answer, while Marc Overmars was sporting enough to tell me that his best 100m timing was 11.0sec flat.
12 years on...
While Wenger is still running Arsenal, five different coaches has warmed the hottest seat in Malaysian sports since 1999...succeeding Abdul Rahman was Allan Harris, followed by Bertalan Bicskei, Norizan Bakar, B. Sathianathan and now Datuk K
This is Wenger's third visit to Kuala Lumpur
English Premier League giants Arsenal flew into Kuala Lumpur this morning to kick-start their AsianTour 2011 with a match against Malaysia at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Wednesday.
Hours after arrival, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was at a press conference and obviously the first question shot at the Frenchman was about his “wantaway” captain Cesc Fabregas.
“He is not here because he is injured. That is why he was left behind to recover,” said Wenger.
When pressed further on the Spaniard, who has been linked to European champions Barcelona, Wenger shot back: “There is always speculation...too many headlines. But we never speak about what is happening behind closed doors.”
Asked about Samir Nasri, who has been strongly linked to Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City but is with the team in Kuala Lumpur, Wenger said: “Samir is very happy and I hope yes...he will sign a new contract.”
Arsenal also left behind new signing, Ivorian striker Gervinho from French club Lille, as the signing was not completed before the travelling party left London, striker Nicklas Bendtner and defender Emmanuel Eboue.
“Some of the internationals have just come back. We want to be as fit as possible. We decided to come to Asia which is a bit more demanding physically. We left some of the new signings as there is no training here.
“We are coming back in Malaysia after 12 years and we are aware of our strong fan base in Asia. Our matches in Malaysia and China are to give fun, pleasure and enjoyment to our fans and to the people who come to watch us play.”
When asked about Arsenal’s dry run in the last six seasons, Wenger said: “It is frustrating to go without any silverware in the last six years but we came close several times only to lose in the final or semi-finals.
“But this team is getting matured and strong. Defensively we did well but we want to be better when on offensive. My plan is to continue to develop Arsenal into a force and we are reaching there, coming close on several occasions.
“This is seen in the quality of football...attacking and entertaining football.”
To another question the Frenchman said: “I am not an intellectual. I live to get results on the field. Unfortunately, sometimes my emotions get the better of me.”
“This is our first match together after the break. Some of the internationals have just come back from duty but this tour means a lot to us. To our fans we will give fun, pleasure and enjoyment to the people who come to watch us play.”
Meanwhile national football head coach Datuk K. Rajagobal said it will be a “learning experience” for Malaysia against the Gunners as they prepare for the second round World Cup qualifying matches against Singapore.
“We are not like Arsenal signing new players. But we...my players and me... are very excited playing Arsenal. This match and the one against Liverpool (July 16) will allow me to assess my players. Arsenal are an offensive and entertaining team. I hope my players will be able to dish out the same,” said Rajagobal.
“It will be a learning experience for us and where we can take advantage we will have to take them.”
First choice goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat has recovered from his shoulder injury while striker Safee Sali is still out.
Meanwhile, tickets priced at RM58, RM68, RM108 and RM108 and RM388 (limited) can be bought through www.ticketpro.com.my or call 03-78807999.