THE stars were there in full force but many Gooners were there for one Arsenal player – Petr Cech.
And to their delight, the Gunner’s new signing was also excited to meet them, calling his first pre-season tour with Arsenal “unforgettable”.
It was definitely one to remember for the sell-out 53,000 crowd at the National Stadium of Singapore last Saturday as Cech repaid their adoring cheers with an impressive number of crucial saves against Roberto Martinez’s side to help Arsenal beat Everton 3-1 and lift the 2015 Barclays Asia Trophy.
“I’m very pleased because the first game is very important and I obviously wanted to have a successful debut. I’m happy - my first game and my first trophy. If it can continue like this I will be delighted,” Cech had told Arsenal’s official website Arsenal.com afterwards.
Admittedly, it was somewhat strange to see the Czech Republic international and former Chelsea great in an Arsenal shirt but as expected, his mere presence gave the North London team a commanding sense of stability.
Even when Ross Barkley pulled one back for Everton late on with a brilliant individual effort, it was not enough to dent the fans’ optimism in seeing Cech in the Arsenal team.
Many are hoping that he will be the game-changer for Arsenal this year.
“The main importance was to get fit and to play well, to get ready for the Premier League and the early competitions. It was the first game for me and the first game for some other lads, but I really enjoyed the team effort we put in and in the end we had a very good game,” he had added.
Fans were disappointed when Arsene Wenger decided to rest him in their game against Singapore Select the Wednesday before that, but Cech more than made up for it in the final game against Everton.
Wenger also kept to his pre-match promise of putting out his other big guns as Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud all started after not featuring against the Singapore Select XI.
“I am really pleased with the performance because our focus in pre-season is to get our game back,” said Wenger after the match.
“And we played in a convincing way and the way we want to play as well. Together it was good team play.
“In pre-season you start to build your confidence up and the wins help. These kinds of games are intense as well and the quality of opponents provided good intensity. For us, it’s a good preparation (for the new season).”
This weekend, Arsenal will continue their pre-season campaign by hosting the Emirates Cup in London.
Following their successful trip to Singapore, Arsenal vice-captain Per Mertesacker has challenged the team to not only grab the Emirates Cup but also to hit the ground running in the new season and prove they can be genuine title challengers.
As he told Arsenal.com, to do that, the North London side cannot afford to make the slow start they did in the last season which saw them winning only two Premier League matches out of the opening eight.
“We need to be at our best. We have shown in the [FA] Cup that we can be consistent for six games. We want to extend that and show that we are real title contenders from the start, not only in the second half of the season,” said the German international.
Despite the lack of other marquee signings, Mertesacker believes the current squad at Emirates are capable of holding their own against the likes of Chelsea and the Manchester clubs.
One “old” player who is keen to rise to his vice-captain’s challenge is winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“I’ve seen every year as a big one for me and this is no different. I did suffer from injuries for the last two seasons now, which is always frustrating and isn’t something you want.
“The new season will be an important season for me and I’ll just approach it the same way I have all of the other seasons,” he told the press conference after Arsenal beat Singapore Select XI 4-0.
Added “the Ox”, the Singapore tour has been a great opportunity for him and team mates to prepare for the 2015/2016 season.
He is especially raring to kick off the new season after his manager told him to make the most of the absence of Alexis Sanchez, who is expected to miss at least the first two games.
“Everyone looks to pre-season and getting going - it’s a good opportunity for all of us to get fitness back.
“Now we just can’t wait for the season to start,” he said.
FA Cup winners Arsenal will face champions Chelsea in the Community Shield match on August 2 before kickstarting their league campaign against West Ham United the following week.