Arsenal expose weakened City side at Wembley
Gunners add Community Shield to FA Cup win in May
Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy is challenged by Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov during the Community Shield at Wembley Stadium. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters
Arsenal 3 Manchester City 0
After eight years without a trophy Arsène Wenger now has two in two games as a breezy performance marked by three excellent goals secured a Community Shield victory against a weakened Manchester City. It is the first time Arsenal have won the shield in a decade and comes three months after their last official match resulted in victory on the same pitch in the FA Cup final against Hull City.
Quite what it means, of course, remains to be seen. City looked like a team still in hibernation mode here, while Arsenal, as they must with Champions League qualifiers coming up, seemed a step forward in their preparations.
Indeed, if confirmation were needed that this is little more than a semi-contest for a semi-trophy that fades from the memory come the first whistle of the season proper, then it is worth sparing a thought for last season’s winners. Twelve months ago victory in the Community Shield was cautiously hailed as the first step in the David Moyes Revolution at Manchester United. Also, as it turned out, the only step.
This is not to belittle Arsenal’s achievement here in beating the champions convincingly with a fine attacking performance that provided both a reminder of the qualities of Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere, who had a good match in central midfield, and some promising signs from the new recruits.
Indeed, this was a breezy, engaging, agreeably carefree kind of match from the start on a humid August afternoon that kicked off with the sun breaking through after a thunderstorm and the Wembley turf seeming to emit a kind of luminous green steam. Wenger’s line-up contained all three significant outfield summer signings – Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Alexis Sánchez – while City included both Fernando, the summer signing from Porto, and Willy Caballero in goal.
In the opening minutes Sánchez combined nicely with both Yaya Sanogo and Ramsey, who showed a willingness to run in behind Gaël Clichy at right back as Arsenal set about trying to make their extra man in midfield count. City lined up here in the now fashionable 4-4-2, with Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic playing as a pair of genuine centre forwards, albeit without the same tenacious commitment to tracking back that made the system work for Atlético Madrid last season.
Most of Arsenal’s early pressure came down the right side, with Sánchez given the chance to run at Aleksandar Kolarov and Debuchy ever-eager in support. Chambers also looked composed in central defence: one early challenge on Yaya Touré, easing off the ball a man who generally yields only to some form of hydraulic lifting equipment, will have given him great heart.
For all that, neither team had actually managed a shot on target before Arsenal opened the scoring in the 22nd minute via a combination of slick play by Cazorla and some loose City defending. There seemed no obvious chance of a shot at goal as Cazorla picked up the ball from Sanogo 30 yards from goal, but Dedryck Boyata’s mistimed lunge towards the ball allowed the Spaniard to roll the challenge and find some space on his left foot. Clichy couldn’t get there in time and Cazorla shot low across Caballero into the far corner.
Cazorla had rescued Arsenal’s Cup final against Hull City in May and here he sparkled again, producing a sublime reverse pass inside Clichy to set Sanogo in on goal. The finish belonged in an entirely separate footballing universe, another hopeful scuff from the young Frenchman’s apparently inexhaustible reserves of shins, pokes, flails and mis-hits.
After which Arsenal continued to probe with Wilshere looking fit and mobile and passing the ball with some purpose in central midfield.
Seven minutes before half-time there were huge cheers around Wembley as Michael Oliver used his vanishing spray for the first time in English football, producing a neat hand drawn circle – mark of the true artist – around the ball, only for Touré’s execution to fall some way short of his art work.
Five minutes later Arsenal doubled their lead though another of their cup final scorers. A quick transition from defence saw Sánchez give the ball to Sanogo, who fed just the right pass inside to Ramsey at just the right speed. Two expert touches made the goal: a jink inside Matija Nastasic and a low hard shot into the corner.
At half-time the game that often feels as though it never really got going felt as though it was all but over, with City looking not so much disinterested as simply undermanned and under-cooked. Indeed, City looked here like what they were: a team with nine first-team players missing, including the captain, main goalscorer and chief creator in David Silva, who did come on at the start of the second half as City looked briefly energised, Navas taking a fine long pass from Touré, and crossing deep for Jovetic to head the ball down, Wojciech Szczcesny palming the bouncing ball away at his near post.
It proved something of a false dawn as Oliver Giroud made the score 3-0 after 58 minutes. What a goal it was too, entirely out of nothing.
Taking a pass from Wilshere the Frenchman, who had looked barely fit in his previous pre-season appearances, carried the ball forward and hit a sublime dipping shot over Caballero from 20 yards. For all the mildness of the occasion Arsenal will still take great heart from victory at Wembley, not least from the fine performances of Ramsey and Cazorla, both of whom were applauded off before the end. Far sterner tests await than this weakened City team, who, for their part, will take little more than a stretching of the legs from a match in which the champions never really got above walking pace.