Arsenal v Manchester City
Kick off: August 10th, 2014 16.00 PM BST
After the longest nine-year-period in my (and not just mine) Arsenal-supporting life, we are about to watch an interesting Community Shield – one that features Arsenal as participants. In 2005 we were beaten by Chelsea 2:1 in a match that was the beginning of Didier Drogba’s tormenting of our defenders and goalkeepers -the Ivorian scored a brace before Cesc Fabregas scored a consolation goal.
There are some connections between the 2005 and 2014 Community Shields – if Mathieu Flamini gets the nod for Sundays match, he will be the only player to appear in both matches given that Frank Lampard probably won’t feature for the reigning champions. The Flame might be the right choice for the match given that he would bring more aggression to our midfield than Mikel Arteta. If that happens, it would be interesting to see whether Arsene Wenger would use Flamini in a more advanced role like he did against the same opponents in the league match in March. Flamini didn’t sit deep but was constantly around the opponents’ box which resulted with a well-taken equalizer in the second half. If I were betting, I’d probably go for The Flame in the starting line-up and for a regular yellow card as well.
Wojciech Szczesny is a safe bet for the place between our sticks. David Ospina hasn’t played for his new club yet due to injury and he will have to wait for his debut for a while.
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Arsene Wenger has already said that Mathieu Debuchy would start against the Citizens. The French right full-back will have a huge task – he is supposed to fill the gap left by Bacary Sagna’s departure to the reigning champions. He looked like a very decent purchase against AS Monaco so there is no reason for Debuchy not to continue in the same way in competitive matches.
If we had learned anything about Arsenal last season, it’s the fact Kieran Gibbs is a player that we don’t have a proper replacement for. It’s not like Nacho Monreal is a poor player – you don’t get capped for Spain by being an average player – but his performances in big matches last season were terrible including the one against City at Etihad when Zabaleta and Jesus Navas did whatever they wanted down the right Citizens’ flank. Hence Gibbs must be picked ahead of Monreal for this match.
There is an obvious dilemma with which pair of central defenders Wenger will pick. Per Mertesacker got the prolonged rest following the German’s victorious World Cup campaign and Thomas Vermaelen has been injured for a while and his probable departure to either Manchester United or Barcelona makes him an unlikely partner of Koscielny in the heart of our defence. Therefore, Calum Chambers might get the nod to make his debut in a trophy-winning match. Based on our preseason, Arsene Wenger sees Ignasi Miquel and Nacho Monreal as other options but it’s highly unlikely that either of them will start in the middle against City.
Mikel Arteta’s performances during preseason haven’t been too convincing which might mean our vice-captain could go down in the pecking order like our captain. Against physically and technically strong Citizens’ midfielders Arteta would probably struggle and that’s why Aaron Ramsey’s partner is most likely to be Flamini. Of course, there are at least three more options: Jack Wilshere – who hasn’t impressed in preseason either – in a more defensive role in which his aggression and pace might compensate for his lack of defensive awareness, Tomas Rosicky – who has shown in the last two seasons that he can both play a piano as Mozart and throw it at opponents when the battle on the pitch requires it, and Calum Chambers as Wenger might give him an opportunity to show what he can do as a defensive midfielder. Ramsey’s inclusion in the starting line-up is a no-brainer – the Welshman has become the most important player of the team and whose goal in FA Cup Final ended our trophy drought.
Given that Mesut Özil got a prolonged rest as well, there are a lot of questions of how our front four will look like. Wenger has a lot of options for the hole – Santi Cazorla is an obvious choice in Özil’s absence, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere can also play behind the striker and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be an interesting option as well given that Wenger sees him as a central midfielder in the future. The Ox would add aggression, pace and directness to our creative department and might be the best choice but my guess would be Wenger will go with Cazorla in the hole.
In the absence of Theo Walcott, Chamberlain should take his position down the right flank. Of course, there is a big chance Alexis Sánchez will start over there just like he did against AS Monaco but Wenger himself praised Chamberlain’s cameo in the second half against the French side and might be tempted to start with him down the right flank. If I were Wenger, I’d start with Alexis down the left flank. The Chilean is a natural born fighter, one that goes for every ball and never surrenders which would mean a lot for our left side of the defence a position that has been heavily exposed by the opponents in the last two seasons.
Cazorla doesn’t offer enough support for our left full-back and that’s the reason why I would opt for the pacey winger on the left to relieve the pressure on our defence. There is another strong option for either wing – Joel Campbell has impressed in the last two months playing for Costa Rica at the World Cup and Arsenal at the Emirates Cup respectively so Wenger might give him a chance to shine again. One option is ruled out due to prolonged rest though – just like his compatriots Mertesacker and Özil, Lukas Podolski won’t feature in our opening matches of the season.
Finally, Olivier Giroud – who looked out of shape against AS Monaco – is our main striker and probably will have another season as our out and out striker despite the improvement of Yaya Sanogo. However, there is possibility that Wenger might go with Alexis or even Campbell up front to get the more fluid attacking play.
Our opponents have problems of their own. Sergio Agüero has had a lot of problems with injuries lately and his World Cup performance reminded me of the prologue of Fernando Torres’ decline. Alvaro Negredo’s knee ruled him out for at least three months of football and our former player Sagna probably won’t play on Sunday either. City haven’t managed to wrap the deal with Porto to sign Eliaquim Mangala, one of the most promising central defenders in the world while two first options in the central defence Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis are under special preseason regime following World Cup which means Dedrick Boyata is likely to start in the central defence.
During preseason Pellegrini has used Gael Clichy on the right side which might be a good thing for us as he is a left-footed full-back and a third-choice right full-back behind Pablo Zabaleta and Sagna respectively. In the middle of the pitch Pellegrini probably won’t field an established partnership of Fernandinho and Yaya Toure with the Brazilian being in the special regime after World Cup so the imperious Ivorian will have to settle with either James Milner or Fernando Regis who signed for City this summer. Down the flanks Jesus Navas – who wasn’t part of the lackluster Spanish national team in Brazil – and his compatriot David Silva will pose the first test to our full-backs this season. Samir Nasri might get a chance to play behind the lone striker Edin Džeko or on the flank. Stevan Jovetić’s impressive preseason form and injuries of Agüero and Negredo suggest that the Montenegrin might be in the starting line-up. Just like us, City replaced their back-up goalkeeper from the former communist country with a South-American – Willy Caballero signed for City from Malaga and will pose more of a serious threat for Hart’s place between the sticks than Costas Pantilimon had.
One of the biggest threats for us will be set-pieces. We are very vulnerable without Mertesacker in that area – we conceded three goals in preseason and each one of them came after set-pieces – and Aleksandar Kolarov is one of the best set-piece takers in the world. His free-kicks – both direct and indirect ones – can be dangerous for our goalkeeper so Szczesny will have to be very careful and more involved in organizing set-pieces. Koscielny is not the best commander of the defence and that’s where Szczesny will have to jump in.
Although people don’t regard Community Shield as the most illustrious competition out there, winning the season opener against Manchester City would be a massive boost for the whole team, especially given how poor our record against Manchester clubs and Chelsea have been in the recent years. Therefore, I’d say we should go for a victory and 2:1 for Arsenal doesn’t sound bad at all.
Head to Head
Premier League (EPL) 29th March 2014 Arsenal FC 1 – Manchester City 1
Premier League (EPL) 14 Dec 2013 Manchester City 6 – Arsenal FC 3
Club Friendlies (FRC) 10 Aug 2013 Arsenal FC 3 – Manchester City 1
Premier League (EPL) 13 Jan 2013 Arsenal FC 0 – Manchester City 2
Premier League (EPL) 23 Sep 2012 Manchester City 1 – Arsenal FC 1
Debuchy Chambers Koscielny (c) Gibbs
Ox Cazorla Alexis
Arsenal 2 v 1 Manchester City