Mens Team

Asia tour diary: Japan

Asia tour diary: Japan
And so our Asia Tour is over, the final leg perhaps the most successful.

Tokyo was a dream city for the players to spend time relaxing, and Yokohama provided great training facilities and a top-class opponent for our final friendly.

There can be few more peaceful countries on earth.

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We landed on Thursday having stayed in Hong Kong after Wednesday’s game.

The win over Kitchee saw us play with more pace and intensity than in either of the matches in China; a significant step up in performance and style.

The players arrived in Japan feeling fitter and closer to being ready for the start of the season, and the mood was excellent.

On Friday, there was an open training session at the Nissan Stadium, an imposing arena built in 1998 and the venue for the 2002 World Cup final.

The players did some stretching, fitness work and Rondos, with an emphasis on receiving the ball in tight spaces and only taking one or two touches.

There was a visible spring in their step.

What was most striking, however, was not the biblical downpour at the very end of the session, but the behaviour of the fans who came to see their idols.

Over 3,000 invited locals were there to witness it, and while the training session was going on they sat in respectful silence, taking in every detail and allowing the squad to concentrate.

Only when practice came to an end and the players were leaving did they begin singing, cheering and generally making noise.

It was remarkable and indicative of the culture in this fascinating corner of the world.

One fan came wonderfully prepared and left with two signed David Silva shirts.

Knowing he could be sat high up, he attached the shirts to a rope with a felt tip pen sellotaped to the side and lowered it as Silva was walking down the tunnel below, to provide the midfielder with everything he needed to get the job done.

Ingenious, like so many of the innovations over here.

Pep Guardiola and Phil Foden faced the media at Friday’s pre-match press conference.

Having watched videos of Yokohama, the boss predicted they would be the ideal test for our Community Shield match against Liverpool, while Foden spoke glowingly about being in Japan.

Guardiola was then asked what he thought of the youngster’s ability, to which the man who has won 27 major honours as a manager declared he is the most talented player he’s ever seen.

Foden was visibly taken aback and full of pride.

It’s going to be a big season for the young man from Stockport who just loves to play football.

The game itself was exactly as Guardiola said it would be.

Yokohama, under the guidance of Ange Postecoglou, have adopted a very similar style to City: playing out from the back, quick passing and high-tempo pressing, with a focus on scoring goals.

It made for a fine match, which City won 3-1, in front of a crowd of 65,052.

And now, after two weeks, it’s time to leave Asia but there’s one final anecdote that, for me, sums up this football club in its current guise.

It took place on the flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo.

Pep and Mikel Arteta were sat together, as they so often are, watching highlights of the Kitchee match from the night before.

Pause, rewind. Stop, start.

Players’ positions isolated and their runs analysed.

Every detail pored over. Nothing left to chance.

Preseason matches are not solely about fitness.

Those two were determined to learn as much as possible about their players from a 6-1 win in a friendly, and it’s that kind of attention to detail, of course, that has been the catalyst of our success over the past two years.

It’s now time to step up again and improve our level still further.

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