Arsenal Tour Diary Day 1: The Gunners are spending their pre-season in the United States but matches in glitzy stadiums with huge local interest has not always been the club’s standard summer preparation

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Declan Rice gives first interview after joining Arsenal

To say Arsenal tours have evolved down the years, is one hell of an understatement.

Back in Arsene Wenger’s days, they used to go to a little German spa town called Bad Wartersdorf and play a couple of low-key friendlies on what felt like the local village green.

These days, it’s big business. Arsenal are in the United States, Mikel Arteta’s men start against the MLS All Stars here in Washington on Wednesday before going on to New Jersey and Los Angeles to play Manchester United and Barcelona.

At a little training campus about 30 minutes outside of central Washington, dozens of film crews, media, and journalists turned up to watch open training and grab a few words with Arteta and a couple of players.

Mikel Arteta was obliged to carry out media duties with a strong press pack in Washington WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 17: Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta is interviewed before the Arsenal training session at George Mason University on July 17, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images) (


David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

It can be a snatched few minutes rather than a big sit-down - they still happen at the right time - and this time it was best to suggest to Arteta that we quickly get cracking. “Let’s go… transfers!” And just like that he’s brilliant with his praise for new boy Declan Rice.

The reality is that football clubs see these tours as big business, a great chance to connect with overseas fans and go global.

The managers just want quality training time, probably do not like too many flights and the scorching temperatures we are getting in the States.

Arteta put his players - including Gabriel Jesus - through their paces Arteta put his players - including Gabriel Jesus - through their paces (


David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

But while Arsenal are used to the trips, it’s a new experience for Wrexham who, like Arsenal and Manchester United, are also touring the United States.

And Wrexham is a HUGE deal here in the US. The Wrexham squad were on my flight from London to Washington on Sunday - hierarchy in upmarket seats, players back with the rest of us in cattle class - and they had a film crew with them.

There was no superstar treatment - despite being owned by Hollywood duo Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney - at passport control but a lot, and I mean a lot, of people coming up to them and talking about the documentary, the story and promotion.

They are seriously big news here. The US public have bought into the Wrexham story, cannot get enough of it and it is just as big this side of the Atlantic as back home. More so, perhaps.

Folarin Balogun spoke to the media on Monday Folarin Balogun spoke to the media on Monday (


David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Sadly, that didn’t stop the flight being delayed, making the connecting flight super tight and there was no VIP lane in passport control. That’s part of the charm, I guess.

I used to do a pre-season tour every year. This time, I’m doing the MLS All Stars v Arsenal on Wednesday, then flying to Miami for Lionel Messi’s debut. I do love coming to the States but have had some great times in Australia and, possibly my favourite country of all, Japan.

However, my best ever single day on a tour came a few years back in Los Angeles with Chelsea.

We got together a press team, we played Chelsea staff - including Jose Mourinho in goal and he pulled his hamstring rushing off his line together with some former Scotland, Portugal and Brazil internationals - and took them to penalties where we inevitably lost in the shoot-out.

There was John Terry and Ashley Cole cheering for Chelsea on the touchline plus Roman Abramovich and his other half watching. It was a brilliant day even if Abramovich’s bodyguard took me out at a corner just before the shoot-out.

Arsenal's club record signing Declan Rice was training with his new teammates Arsenal’s club record signing Declan Rice was training with his new teammates (


Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Then came a Cranberries gig on Sunset Strip, running into Mike Tyson on the walk home and then the nightclub in the downstairs of the hotel. None of us wanted the day (or night) to end.

Sadly, we don’t get much time for days like that anymore and there’s not much time for the clubs to have fun either. The schedule is way too tight these days…