FA Community Shield Review – Manchester City FC vs Arsenal FC by SE
For the first time in 12 years, this season’s FA Community Shield took place without one of Manchester United or Chelsea being a part of the momentous occasion. However, Manchester City FC and Arsenal FC took to Wembley for the annual curtain raiser, as the FA Community Shield is prominently called, having won the Premier League and FA Cup from the preceding season respectively.
Manchester City palpably, and expectedly, started with their second string side, which still boasted of Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri, Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas and the new recruit from FC Porto, Fernando Reges. Willy Caballero, former Malaga goalkeeper, started on goal for the Premier League champions, ahead of England’s No.1 Joe Hart. The defence, with the missing World Cup stars in Kompany, Zabaleta and Demichelis, had a rather strange look to it. Clichy, who is a left full back traditionally, played at Right-Back, with Kolarov playing at Left-Back. Boyata and Nastasic played at the heart of Manchester City’s defence.
Arsenal’s lineup was an anticipated one, with the new recruits in Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers starting the game for the FA Cup winners. Yaya Sanogo lead the line for Arsenal, ahead of Olivier Giroud, and Cazorla, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Gibbs and Koscielny completed a promising Arsenal lineup. Arsenal’s No.1 Szczesny started on goal.
It was a peculiar start to the game from both teams, as I, for a minute or two, was wondering whether it was something other than even a frivolous pre-season game. It was slow, disillusioned and obnoxious to watch.
Arsenal, though, were the better of the two teams, albeit a bit slow with their passing and movement early on. The Gunners lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, which shifted to 4-1-4-1 when they were off possession, with Arteta playing as the sole Mid-Field pivot behind Wilshere and Ramsey. Sanchez and Cazorla took up the right and left flanks respectively, with Sanogo playing as the Center-Forward.
Manchester City’s defence, which was always going to be a worry, with Boyata and Nastasic starting, lived up to expectation. And, prior to Arsenal opening their scoring, they had a couple of openings, which weren’t taken full advantage of.
However, in the 21st minute of the match, Arsenal harnessed Man City’s dodgy defending. The ball was played in from the Right-Wing by Sanchez, and Boyata’s clumsy challenge on Wilshere, outside the box, lead to the Referee Michael Olivier waving play on, and Cazorla jumped on to the ball, sucking Clichy out of position and drilling a left-foot shot past Caballero to find the bottom corner.
Arsenal were off and flying!
And Arsenal weren’t required to shift into any lower gear, as they were up against a Man City side that hardly played Football, let alone a match of this consequence.
Arsenal’s defence was at fault a couple of times during the first period, with Chambers pressurized into making one or two awkward passes, which served as a warning to the former Saints man.
Debuchy bursting forward was a sight to behold, as he combined well with Sanchez, but he didn’t quite trackback, which lead to Kolarov exploiting the Frenchman inside-out. On one occasion, Kolarov’s intricate play against Debuchy created an opening for the Serbian to drift into the box and drill a cross in to find Jovetic, and Arsenal were lucky to escape a major scare.
As the match approached Half Time, Arsenal were at it again. Man City, with their labored approach, lost possession, and found themselves getting caught on the break. Sanchez, hanging high up the pitch, received the pass after a Man City move had broken down, and found Sanogo with a through ball. The French striker held the ball up, and shrugged off Boyata, his solitary marker, to find the arriving Ramsey, who right-footed past Caballero to put Arsenal 2-0 ahead.
Surely the game was Arsenal’s to lose, and the lead remained the same, as the players headed into the tunnel at the half-way-point of the match.
Right at the start of the second period, both managers made changes to their starting lineups. Pellegrini brought on David Silva for the ex-Gunner Samir Nasri, who got jeered by the Arsenal faithful every time he took a touch. Arsene Wenger made three changes to his lineup, as he subbed off Sanchez, Koscielny and Sanogo for Chamberlain, Monreal and Giroud.
Man City, with the injection of Silva, started off the second period with a bit more purpose and incision than what they managed until then. And,
Szczesny was called into action a couple of times during the early tussles of the second half. On the 52nd minute, Jesus Navas crossed in from the Right-Wing to pick out Jovetic, whose soft header had the Polish Goal-Keeper in a spot of bother. And, even though he palmed it away, it again fell to Jovetic, who, this time, fired it high and not-so-handsome.
Minutes later, Jovetic had another chance to reduce Arsenal’s two goal lead, as Kolarov picked out the injury-prone striker inside the box. Jovetic took a touch to set himself up, and struck it from inside the box, but Szczesny parried it away firmly, and Arsenal yet again escaped narrowly.
At the hour mark, Pellegrini made two more changes, as he injected the industry of Milner for Dzeko and the feisty Zuculini for Toure. Manchester City resorted from their traditional 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1, with Jovetic playing as the sole striker.
A minute later, the under-fire French striker Giroud came up with a moment of sheer brilliance. He struck a shot from 25-yards out, which swerved and dipped appropriately to catch the Goal-Keeper out, and find the back of the net for the 3rd time. It was 3-0 to Arsenal, and it was damage-control-mode from the Premier League champions. The dominance wasn’t quite on show, and despite a rather weak defence playing against a top-drawer Arsenal frontline, Man City’s attack never clicked, and they just weren’t up for it.
Subsequently, more substitutions followed from both managers, as Arsenal completed the final rituals to bury Man City and lift this year’s FA Community Shield.
It was a satisfying performance from Wenger’s wizards, and it would serve as a huge warning to their Premier League rivals who will now have a different Arsenal to combat, compared to previous seasons.