Manchester City 0 – 3 Arsenal
0 – 1 Cazorla (22)
0 – 2 Ramsey (43)
0 – 3 Giroud (62)
A weakened and rusty Arsenal blew away a weakened and rusty Manchester City in the first half to lift the Community Shield at Wembley yesterday. As much as the media would like to point to the absences of Aguerro, Zabayleta and Kompany as a reason for the defending champions performing so poorly, they ought to wonder how well Arsenal might have played with Özil, Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud. Yes, the same Olivier Giroud who was bizarrely voted Man of the Match, was absent in the first half when the FA Cup holders purred through quick passing and rapid movement to establish dominance and a two-goal advantage.
Having been announced as Thomas Vermaelen’s successor, Mikel Arteta’s first job was to lift the Community Shield trophy above his head. Per Mertesacker resisted the temptation to remove his suit and bound up the Wembley steps to join his capitan in the post-match celebrations but not through any sense of decorum, he had forgotten his shin pads and didn’t feel properly attired.
Arsène refused to get carried away with the victory,
To win today gives us a positive platform to prepare but now the Premier League starts and we have to start well at home because it’s a derby, it’s a very uncomfortable team [we face in Crystal Palace]. It will be a different kind of game as well. Let’s be on our toes and prepare well but it was important to win today.
Understandably so. The Community Shield is a notoriously fickle guide to the coming season with six of the last dozen clubs who have won the trophy, ending the season as champions. Wenger won’t be carried away by one victory, perhaps mindful of a similarly handsome win over the same opponents twelve months ago in Helsinki. Don’t worry Arsène, we’re more than capable of doing that for you.
There were many positives from the match. Finishing with a back four made up of players who are by trade full backs, managing a clean sheet and reducing City to few chances will have pleased the manager. City were purposeful in their attacks in the first forty-five minutes but I felt Debuchy and Chambers in particular, dealt well with the threat down the right. Yes, the youngster was caught out of position a couple of times but overall he produced another creditable performance and one I thought worthy of being rewarded as Man of the Match. Both Gibbs and Debuchy offered plenty of width and support to Cazorla and Sanchez respectively, yet neither committed themselves so far forward that they were caught out of position with worrying repetition.
In midfield, Ramsey, Arteta and Wilshere provided the scurrying harassment of City so that retaining possession became an alien concept to them. It allowed a constant feeding of the ball to Sanchez and Cazorla who lured the full backs out of position with relative ease. The Chilean wriggled and mesmerised his opponents with impish delight in the first half, his withdrawal gave City new problems as Oxlade-Chamberlain provided a directness without so much guile; it had the same effect, the full backs were more often than not left rocking on their heels as space was burst into with a gusto we associate with the early season.
Cazorla broke the deadlock with a well-placed shot across Caballero in the City goal; even if Hart had been there, it was a shot that was placed with accuracy and left the goalkeeper with little chance of saving the goal. Two minutes before the break, Ramsey created a little space a scored into the opposite corner. Both goals owed much to the awkward Yaya Sanogo, whose endeavour cannot be faulted but too often, as in the case of Cazorla’s opener, the ball eludes his control at vital moments. If Arsenal lost Giroud for a significant length of time, it is hard to envisage the youngster being a long-term solution with the likes of Walcott and Sanchez to call upon; that is one of the reasons for the strong desire for a central striker this summer. It seems incredibly unlikely and if Giroud is going to strike ball as sweetly as he did for the third goal that killed the game just as City were building a head of steam, even less likely. It was a magnificent strike and one that deserves to be watched repeatedly.
Arsène knew the importance of the game,
That’s why it was important for us today not to lose the game. On that front we know that last year we were very consistent against the teams outside the top six and not consistent against the top six teams. The year before it was reversed so let’s hope that this year it will be right on both sides.
I felt last season we were incredibly consistent against the top sides last year; we didn’t lose at home and were hammered on our travels. There was no middle ground and it is that which Arsène will seek to occupy this year. Take as many points at home as possible and nick a few in the away games. It’s the form titles are won on.
And that is something this squad is capable of doing. They need the luck and good fortune of champions, to win or draw where a positive outcome seems unlikely but more importantly, to keep their key personnel fit for the season. Arsenal’s list of key players continues to grow with the acquisition of Alexis Sanchez and into that mix can be added the likes of Koscielny, Mertesacker and Chambers. Going into the season with just those three as recognised centre backs is hugely risky in my opinion and would be hugely disappointing since Vermaelen’s departure was not unexpected. I understand that Arsène’s head has been turned by the form of Calum Chambers this summer but nonetheless, it would be playing with fire to rely on just those three for the remainder of 2014.
Crucially from Arsenal’s point of view, they have some momentum building and a confidence which keeps growing. They need to keep building on that, taking every positive forward into what is a busy opening phase of the season. With the form shown in the first half, anything is possible.