Arsenal prove little with rout of feeble Manchester City
Arsenal 3 Man City 0
Published 11/08/2014 | 02:30
In keeping with the fabled timetable of the capital's buses, Arsenal fans waited nine years for a trophy and then two come along in quick succession.
"Arsenal will need a new trophy cabinet,'' screamed the Wembley DJ as the FA Cup winners swept to an emphatic Community Shield win over Manchester City, the champions who seemed totally uninterested. Arsenal supporters will rightly enjoy this but will not get carried away.
In a game also notable for the introduction of vanishing spray and City's disappearing defence, the victory was still undeniably impressive and Arsenal supporters were in jubilant mood as they celebrated in Poznan style goals from Santi Cazorla, the outstanding Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud.
They also derived pleasure from the contributions of Arsene Wenger's summer signings, namely the finesse of Alexis Sanchez, strong signs of Calum Chambers' potential at centre-half, and a busy display from Mathieu Debuchy at right-back.
As Sanchez, Chambers and Debuchy helped parade the trophy before the fans, the music thudding out of Wembley's speakers ranged from Move On Up to London Calling but a touch of caution would have been welcome, perhaps with a twirl of Johnny Nash's There Are More Questions Than Answers.
A truer assessment of Arsenal's ability to last the marathon assault course that is the Premier League must wait for another day. How will Sanchez fare against a defence more obdurate than one possessing Dedryk Boyata at its heart? How will Chambers combat the movement of the likes of Sergio Aguero?
How will Debuchy deal with a wide player like Eden Hazard?
Do Arsenal need another centre-forward or should Wenger keep faith in Yaya Sanogo as understudy to Giroud? Is another centre-half still required despite Wenger suggesting that Chambers and Nacho Monreal could deputise for the first-choice right-left combination of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny?
How will Arsenal handle Chelsea and the power of Diego Costa, the guile of Cesc Fabregas and a resolute defence organised by John Terry? How will they deal with the pace of Liverpool's Raheem Sterling? So many questions. What can be said with some conviction is that Arsenal boast deeper reserves of talent and belief than for a decade.
And, a lovely conundrum this, how on earth is Wenger going to juggle his myriad options in the creative department behind Giroud?
He now has Sanchez along with Cazorla, Ramsey, comfortably the best player on the pitch with his passing and moving, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with Theo Walcott still to return from injury.
Enough questions. This should not alter radically the season's title odds, with City and Chelsea deserved favourites, but it will have another, improving effect on Arsenal's confidence.
The most uplifting memory Arsenal fans will take away from Wembley is that they answered the questions posed them in this one-sided game. Mikel Arteta, the new club captain after Thomas Vermaelen has been sold, anchored midfield, allowing Jack Wilshere to push on, linking with Sanchez and company.
England's outgoing captain, Steven Gerrard, had indicated a year ago that Wilshere could be his successor. Wilshere was particularly looking to seize this opportunity, following a difficult summer in Manaus, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Las Vegas.
Roy Hodgson had planned to attend Wembley, assessing the three English players starting, but was held up in a three-hour traffic jam en route from his central London home and eventually gave up, turning round and watching the game on television.
London traffic? Who'd have guessed? Even at the weekend, the capital can get clogged up, but was worsened by the RideLondon cycle race hurtling through the centre. Hodgson missed a decent shift from Wilshere and particularly the contribution of Chambers, who was making interceptions as if born to the position.
He was really caught out only once, when Edin Dzeko lured him wide and beat him for pace. Hodgson also missed Joe Hart warming up, the England No 1 kept on the bench by Willy Caballero, a favourite of Manuel Pellegrini's from their days at Malaga.
Caballero never convinced here, although due allowance must be made for the occasional hapless nature of the defending in front of him.
Hart cannot have been overly concerned watching these 90 minutes, but Pellegrini's post-match utterances were hardly reassuring. Goalkeepers often need the security of knowing they are No 1 and a season of doubts over Hart will help neither City nor England.
Arsenal were without Ozil and Mertesacker, but City's list of first-choice absentees was even longer, including Vincent Kompany, Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, Martin Demichelis and Pablo Zabaleta, while David Silva did come on. Samir Nasri looked lively early on, having one shot blocked by Debuchy amid endless jeers from Arsenal fans for announcing they would be "stupid" to boo him.
The goals began after 21 minutes. Ramsey started the move in midfield, passing to Sanchez, who turned the ball in to Sanogo.
The tall striker responded well, eluding Matija Nastasic. As the ball was worked on, Boyata flew in on Wilshere, fouling the Arsenal No?10, but Michael Oliver played some excellent advantage. The ball carried on to Cazorla, whose first touch created the opportunity, and his second, left-footed, despatched a low shot past Caballero.
City's backline resembled a loose collection of strangers. Three minutes before the break, Arsenal cut through again. Ramsey did superbly, starting the move in his own box with a touch out to Wilshere, who was flattened in spreading the ball right to Sanchez.
The Chilean weighted his pass perfectly, allowing Sanogo to outmuscle, wrong-foot and bamboozle Boyata.
Sanogo rolled the ball on to Ramsey, who had raced 80 yards. His first touch deceived Nastasic and Gael Clichy. His second gave Caballero no chance.
As the second half began, Stevan Jovetic hit the post with a header and had a drive well saved by Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal simply flicked at the accelerator again. Giroud held off Nastasic and sent a dipping shot past Caballero. Giroud may lack pace but he gives Arsenal a physical, back-to-goal, line-leading option.
Arsenal showed they are in the mood to answer questions this season. City, though, are unlikely to play as anaemically again. (© Daily Telegraph, London)