Arsenal 3 - 0 Manchester City: Aaron Ramsey excels as the Gunners lift Community Shield 2014
It was an afternoon for Arsenal as they exist in Arsene Wenger’s ideal world. A world in which rich oligarchs cannot buy success, one in which his club are at Wembley every season and where every pass from a red-shirt is tantalisingly out of the reach of their opposition.
The Community Shield is not the most reliable indicator of a manager’s likely fortunes for the season ahead – David Moyes’ Manchester United won it last season – but there is nothing like a comfortable victory in the August sunshine to fire the optimism. And that was what Arsenal left Wembley with, along with the FA’s silver salad platter, having made short work of the champions Manchester City.
So many pre-seasons under Wenger in the recent past have been a story of demoralising departures and worryingly late arrivals in the August transfer window. This time, he was able to field three of his four new signings in the starting XI and there was a notable freshness about his players almost three months on from their FA Cup triumph.
From the moment that Santi Cazorla turned inside the former Arsenal full-back Gael Clichy, played out of position at right-back, and scored the first goal on 21 minutes, there was precious little doubt that this was going to be Arsenal’s day. They did it without their three-man German World Cup-winning contingent, and they did it in style.
As for City, the best that could be said was that, at two goals down, they improved in the second half. Many of the big-hitters who they hope will sustain them through the season - Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna and Frank Lampard - were watching from the Club Wembley seats. Yet even so the one-paced efforts of the league champions in the first half in particular were quite something.
Manuel Pellegrini also selected his new Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero ahead of Joe Hart. On reflection it will have been one that the Englishman might have been glad to have missed out on.
City allowed themselves to be passed around by Arsenal who enjoyed some sequences of possession that saw them work he ball all the way from the back to the front and, sometimes back again. And when City did manage to get forward they were hit hard on the counter-attack with Alexis Sanchez leading the way, as he did in creating the second goal for Aaron Ramsey shortly before half-time.
Arsenal did all this without a centre-forward who was anything like as ruthless as he might have been. Yaya Sanogo played a key part in both first half goals but failed to hit the target when played in by Cazorla on 25 minutes. It was a brief reminder that there is still a fundamental question over whether Arsenal can score the goals that will lift them out of the eternal third-place, fourth-place cycle, but it did not spoil the rest of the performance.
Playing on the right-side Sanchez was an excellent outlet. Jack Wilshere, eventually replaced by Mathieu Flamini with 20 minutes left, had a fine game in midfield. Ramsey was superb, his first delightful first touch taking the ball away from Matija Nastasic to clear the space for a shot for his goal three minutes before the break.
Wenger picked his young Southampton signing Calum Chambers in the centre of defence and he did not disappoint. The only note of caution was in the first half when he was beaten for pace down the goalline by Edin Dzeko, not a striker noted as especially quick.
Samir Nasri was loudly disapproved of by the Arsenal support every time he had the ball, which was not that often before he was substituted at half-time to give David Silva a half. There were 11 substitutions between the two sides with even City’s lost soul Scott Sinclair given a late run-out as a late replacement for Jesus Navas.
The pick of Arsenal’s goals was Olivier Giroud’s just after the hour. On as a half-time substitute for Sanogo, he whipped a left foot shot over Caballero from the right channel that left the Argentine flat on his back. It may have taken a touch off Nastasic’s leg on its way. As for City, Stefan Jovetic was denied brilliantly by Wojciech Szczesny just minutes after the Montenegrin had hit the post with a header.
Jovetic was one of the few who showed the kind of bite that City will require if they are to retain their title. As for Yaya Toure, who came off on the hour, this was a not a game that he looked particularly interested in. These are early days, but for Arsenal this is much more preferable to previous summers.
Arsenal (4-1-3-2) Szczesny; Debuchy, Chambers, Koscielny (Monreal, ht), Gibbs; Arteta; Sanchez (Oxlade-Chamberlain, ht), Ramsey (Campbell, 86), Wilshere (Flamini, 68), Cazorla (Rosicky, 70); Sanogo (Giroud, ht)
Substitutes not used: Martinez (gk).
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Caballero; Clichy, Boyata, Nastasic, Kolarov (Richards, 76); Toure (Zuculini, 60), Fernando; Navas (Sinclair, 85), Dzeko (Milner, 60), Nasri (Silva, ht); Jovetic.
Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Rekik.
Man of the match: Ramsey
Referee: M Oliver (Northumberland)