Football: Arsenal positive after 'very difficult' tour

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) - Arsenal have gone home on a positive note after what manager Arsene Wenger called a "very difficult" pre-season Asian tour in sweltering temperatures.

The north London side returned home on Saturday and will play several more friendlies before their league opener against Aston Villa on Aug 17, but have yet to sign a big name in the summer transfer window.

"We are well advanced in our preparation," Wenger told Arsenal's website as he looked to the season ahead, but said it may take time to recover from the gruelling Asian tour.

"It depends now on how quickly we'll recover from that trip because it was very difficult," he said.

The Gunners won all four of their Asian tour matches, although they struggled in the final match against J-League side Urawa Reds on Friday, squeezing a 2-1 victory.

Wenger enforced an intense training camp in Japan, with two tough sessions a day in temperatures of 30 deg C, and at least 75 per cent humidity.

The French manager had already guided his 24-strong squad through even hotter conditions in Indonesia and Vietnam.

During their two-week tour, Arsenal blew away an Indonesian All-Star XI 7-0, and pummelled Vietnam's national side 7-1.

They took a 3-1 win over Japan's Nagoya Grampus, which Wenger successfully coached for 18 months before moving to Arsenal in 1996.

Against Urawa, an 82-minute winner from 17-year-old substitute Chuba Akpom secured a late victory for Arsenal.

"We wanted a competitive game. We got one," Wenger said. "It was a good test for us." After signing 20-year-old French youth international striker Yaya Sanogo from Auxerre, Wenger has yet to clinch any high-profile deals before the start of the new season.

Arsenal have not taken a Premiership title since 2004.

Their repeated attempts to sign Liverpool's Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez have been rejected. The Gunners are reportedly preparing a third bid for Suarez after offering 35 million pounds and then 40 million pounds earlier to Liverpool.

Wenger, 63, said the changing nature of the transfer market has made it tough to close deals.

"What has changed recently is that in Europe, countries like France have bought some very talented players who would two or three years ago all have come to England," Wenger told "That makes the chase for talent very difficult."

"We want as many top players as we can but we have to focus on the (current) players and develop them as well," he said.

"In midfield you have plenty of candidates. There's a big fight in midfield. (Bacary) Sagna has settled in well as a centre back. We have a strong squad. We are there on the market trying to strengthen our team." French Sagna, 30, has denied speculation that he might move back to France, with Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco reportedly showing an interest in him.

French international striker Olivier Giroud, who scored six goals in three games during the Asian tour, believes Arsenal are already a stronger team than they were when he joined them last season.

"We have more knowledge now," Giroud told the club's website. "We also didn't lose anyone during the summer for the first time in a few years," he said.

Giroud added that he would welcome a new striker, even though he might compete with his own position up front.

"It does not worry me...the most important thing is the team," the 26-year-old said.

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