Austria-endorsing Arsenal bound for Asia

Arsenal may not hold their pre-season training camp in Austria for the first time in 10 years.British media report today (Thurs) that the Premier League giants were expected to go on a lucrative tour across Asia. Arsenal officials think that such a venture will boost the London team’s popularity in emerging markets – and pour millions of pounds into the club’s coffers thanks to an expected surge in merchandising sales.Several English competitors of Arsenal and a string of other top European clubs travelled to Asia during summers past to play friendlies against local clubs and to do promotions. The Gunners however had picked Bad Waltersdorf – a spa town in the province of Styria – each summer since 2001.The BBC reports that manager Arsene Wenger is expected to yield to club chiefs’ pressure in favour of a journey to the Far East. The Frenchman is under fire after his team were recently knocked out of the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League. Arsenal are currently in second place in the 20-team Premiership, but seven points behind leaders Manchester United. However, the side of Sir Alex Ferguson played 32 matches so far this season while the Gunners competed in just 31 games.Arsenal failed to win any major trophies since their FA Cup triumph six years ago. Wenger has been in charge at the former club of Austrian keeper Alexander Manninger in 1996. The team’s training sessions in Bad Waltersdorf have been attended by hundreds of fans from Britain, Austria and all over the world whereas thousands filled the ranks at friendlies played against Italian side AS Roma, Austrian Bundesliga club SV Mattersburg and other clubs.A report by the BBC has it that Arsenal consider going to China or Malaysia after Wenger initially preferred quake-hit Japan where he worked as coach of Nagoya Grampus for two years before joining the Gunners. The ex-AS Monaco boss said last October: “I am under pressure from the club to do it (a pre-season tour). But I want to start the season well. If it’s just to make money, then no.”Meanwhile, Rapid Vienna have appointed Zoran Barisic as caretaker coach of their senior team. The former midfielder was asked to take over until the end of the current season after Peter Pacult was fired. Pacult, who has acted as Rapid manager since 2006, reportedly met Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz to negotiate a cooperation from next season. Sport newspapers have it that Pacult showed interest in coaching RB Leipzig – who currently compete in Germany’s fourth-highest league – while Rapid President Rudolf Edlinger said the decision to lay him off was based on a “massive breach of trust.”Pacult controversially replaced Barisic as his assistant manager by Leopold Rotter in 2009 without arguing the move in public. Barisic may be succeeded by former Rapid captain Peter Schöttel or ex-national team star Dietmar Kühbauer. Schöttel currently manages Bundesliga side Magna Wiener Neustadt. Kühbauer – who played for Rapid, VfL Wolfsburg and several other clubs – is in charge at second-league side FC Admira Wacker Mödling.Rapid – who won the Austrian league a record 32 times, most recently in 2008 – face Wacker Innsbruck this Saturday. Three more Bundesliga matches are set to take place on the same day before Magna clash with SV Ried the next day.The Austrian Bundesliga table after 28 of 36 rounds:Austria Vienna, 50 pointsSturm Graz, 49Red Bull Salzburg, 44SV Ried, 44Rapid Vienna, 42Magna Wiener Neustadt, 42Wacker Innsbruck, 42Kapfenberg, 30SV Mattersburg, 22LASK Linz, 16