It was one of those matches that everyone expect you to win and then claim that it wasn’t such a big deal given how weakened the side you faced. That’s the reason why I’m very happy with the fact we won it with a three-goal-margin – that sort of victory can hardly be argued by the critics and injects confidence in all players. Given that we hadn’t beaten the Citizens in four competitive matches before we battered them yesterday and that we suffered a three-goal-margin defeat at Etihad last season, this victory becomes sweeter and sweeter! Here are key pointers from yesterday’s game:
1.Pace, pace and more pace!
My mate The Cookie Monster (no, it’s not an imaginary friend, it’s an actual person, I promise – TCM is just his screen-name) has shared on more than one occasion his philosophy that can be summed up as: “Pace, pace and more pace!” And, indeed, today’s football is all about pace and our flat performances last season after we lost Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey to injury were the main reason we couldn’t fight for the league title until the end.
Arsene Wenger decided it’s time to change that and signed players that have pace as their key attribute. Even our back-up goalkeeper Ospina is more explosive than Szczesny and Fabianski!
With Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez and even Yaya Sanogo in the team we have a lot of mobility up front which gives our creative midfielders like Santi Cazorla (and hopefully Mesut Özil) more space to operate with which spells “big trouble for all our opponents”. Even when the ball goes through the middle, it goes much faster than it used to in previous seasons as our players’ mobility is at a higher level. Speaking of levels and mobility, Alexis is a special beast and we might see a lot of deadly counter-attacks from our team this season.
2.Community Shield is the Community Shield.
I’m sorry for tautology but I can explain it. There are people who try to minimize the importance of the Community Shield in order to minimize the significance of our victory against City. The thing is, it’s a curtain raiser. It’s played for a real trophy (they might have told you that size isn’t important but the CS-trophy is really a huge one!) and it features – in most cases, that is – two teams that were good enough to win two major trophies in England. Now, the Community Shield might not be as an illustrious competition as the FA Cup and the Premiership but it’s more than just a preseason friendly.
3. The Manchester duopoly can be broken.
People tend to point out that CS-winners rarely go on to win the league title. Yes, Manchester United have been the last in 2010-11. Then again, the list of the winners suggest big teams want to win it – the Manchester clubs have created a duopoly in both league and Community Shield in the last four years. Our victory over the Citizens broke their streak and now it might be the sign of the shift of power in the league as well.
4.We need a big squad and we might get one this summer.
Although there is a common opinion that we need to sign a physically strong midfielder, let’s not forget that Arsene Wenger has rarely or never operated within the margins of common opinions. As he has already pointed out, we have a big squad with at least two options for every place in the team. We used to have a problem with overplaying our best players but with signings like Alexis, Chambers, Ospina and Debuchy, return of Campbell, improvement of Sanogo and hopefully recovered players like Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere and Diaby, we might have enough firepower and energy to challenge for silverware in all competitions.
5.Yaya Sanogo can be a secret weapon. Or at least a weapon.
The French youngster seems to be Arsene Wenger’s answer for Olivier Giroud’s problems against big teams. He gave a solid performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup last season, he fought well against Bayern as well and now he created a lot of problems for Nastasić and Boyata and forced City to hurry up with Eliaquim Mangala’s signature.
There is an obvious lack of technique and shooting skill but it can be fixed. He can also add some spark to the attack when we need a goal or two like he has already shown in the FA Cup Final against Hull City. Sanogo seems like a clever lad who is still learning football at the highest level and – who knows – maybe next year when someone mentions “Yaya” people will think of Sanogo first and not Toure!
6.Aaron Ramsey is a world-class midfielder.
If there is a guy who deserves to succeed for everything he had to deal with – being injured by an Orc, insulted by idiots, being disputed by pundits – then it’s Aaron Ramsey. But Ramsey is too smart to think that Lady Karma would do everything for him so he has done a lot on his physical preparation and tactical skills.
It seems that Arsene Wenger was right to put him on the wing for a while to give him more awareness on the pitch – he looks comfortable regardless of where the action takes place – in the middle or out wide. He has imposed himself as the key player for our team, one that scores and creates goals for fun. He is a world-class midfielder already and I can already smell the regular predators from Barcelona and Real Madrid knocking on our door next summer with offers that we should refuse.
7.What’s going to happen with our Germans?
OK, Per Mertesacker is pretty much a safe bet for our central defence as his partnership with Koscielny is the base of all our success in the last 18 months. But, what about the others?
Mesut Özil is the best No. 10 in the world but Aaron Ramsey can make things happen as well. Özil can play on the wing as well but he is less effective and less impressive there as seen during World Cup – however he put in some hard graft.
Lukas Podolski won’t get too much of regular football next season. There is a lot of options in our attack most of them having more pace than our deadliest finisher, so Podolski’s role might be reduced to a super-sub. He didn’t get too much playing time for Germany either so he might want to look for a new club before the transfer deadline.
Serge Gnabry has problems with injuries but he hasn’t featured for Arsenal for a while even in times when he is fit. Perhaps a Premiership loan spell (he has been connected with a loan move to Newcastle) wouldn’t be a bad idea for Gnabry. He is far from the finished article but his talent combined with physical abilities and versatility should propel him to the top.
Gedion Zelalem might be considered as too young by Arsene Wenger to feature more regularly as the Gunners boss thinks that young players need more training than match practice in order to get proper physical, technical and tactical education.
8.Has Olivier Giroud chased away all the demons that have been following him?
Olivier Giroud’s statistics against big teams hasn’t been something to be proud of. Prior to his astonishing goal against City on Sunday he hadn’t recorded a single goal in matches against the Manchester clubs and Chelsea in twelve competitive matches. He did score against Manchester City though – a well-taken finish in the preseason friendly against the Citizens in August 2013 – but he had to wait until this Community Shield to score one goal in a game that matters. He needs time to restore his fitness following his World Cup campaign with France but his confidence might be on track already.
9.Dedryck Boyata is our lucky omen.
I didn’t want to jinx but there was a reason why I specifically mentioned the Belgian defender in the match preview for this game. In December 2010 Boyata started against us at the Etihad and earned an early red card for the foul on Marouane Chamakh. We went on to thrash them 3:0 with the gods of comedy joining the gods of football to put Nicklas Bendtner on the score-sheet as well with Marouane Chamakh’s key role in the victory (though, from today’s perspective Samir Nasri’s presence on the score-sheet also has a comical value). On Sunday Boyata looked out of depth and couldn’t prevent us from scoring decisive goals in the first half. With the reports of Eliaquim Mangala signing for Manchester City, it might be that Boyata played his last big match for City on Sunday.
10.Two of the last trophies in English football have been won by…
…THE MIGHTY ARSENAL!
Manchester City won the league on 11th May – six days before we won the FA Cup. That means we have won two trophies in a row. Let’s keep the good run running!