Gunners on fire

Gunners on fire
Arsenal players pose with the Community Shield trophy after Arsenal won the FA Community Shield football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 10, 2014.

REPORTING FROM WEMBLEY

COMMUNITY SHIELD

ARSENAL 3 (Santi Cazorla 21, Aaron Ramsey 42, Olivier Giroud 61)

MAN CITY 0

Sir Alex Ferguson was always insistent that retaining a title was far harder than winning one.

On the evidence of this, Manuel Pellegrini is about to learn that lesson the hard way.

A lethargic and disjointed Manchester City were played off the park by Arsenal at Wembley last night, torn apart by the incisive and endearingly ambitious passing of the Gunners.

For the second time in nine years, they have a reason to unlock the trophy cabinet.

If City offer more displays this dire, theirs will stay tightly shut.

From the start, Pellegrini's side looked disjointed, short of both fitness and motivation.

This was not entirely surprising. With Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo out, Stevan Jovetic was given a role behind Edin Dzeko.

With the best will in the world, that's not Pellegrini's preferred pairing.

In midfield, Fernando made his debut after his £12 million (S$25 million) transfer from Porto in the summer, but found himself overwhelmed by the Arsenal players, with Yaya Toure unable to offer more than fleeting resistance.

Having caused so many problems over a birthday cake last season, you might think he'd be playing to win back the City supporters.

As expected, Pellegrini left Joe Hart out of the starting line-up and put his faith in new Malaga signing Willy Caballero.

The Argentine goalkeeper performed heroics for Pellegrini during their time at Malaga.

It was in defence where the real problems lay. Vincent Kompany's absence saw Dedryck Boyata's selection and the Belgian was absolutely wretched.

Having played just a single league game last season, he won a new and improved contract at the club only because of his homegrown status, invaluable after Uefa's FFP sanctions.

As he swung and missed at Arsenal ankles time and time again, it was hard to imagine any other reason for his retention.

Early warning

Arsenal served immediate notice of their intentions, but City ignored it.

Yaya Sanogo, a more reassuring presence up front since he routed Benfica in the Emirates Cup, was quick and strong, too much for Boyata to deal with.

When Sanogo found Jack Wilshere, Boyata cleaned him out, but referee Michael Oliver allowed play to continue as the ball fell to Santi Cazorla.

With a quick touch and deft turn, the Spaniard found room to squeeze off a shot that Caballero might feel he should have reached.

Arsenal nearly doubled their lead four minutes later when Sanogo was set clean through on goal, only to drag his shot wide.

He redeemed himself shortly before half-time when he outmuscled Boyata, slipped the ball to Aaron Ramsey and watched the Welshman poke home to double the lead.

City rallied a little in the second half, going close three times in four minutes through Jovetic.

But the game was comprehensively ended after an hour when Olivier Giroud, a half-time change for Sanogo, smashed home a third from 25 metres.

To the west of the stadium, the Arsenal fans mockingly performed a mass "Poznan" for their opponents.

In the east, City responded with defiance and a rousing chorus of "Blue Moon". On the pitch, City capitulated.

Arsenal were excellent, their performance epitomised by the display from Ramsey in the middle, but also by the efforts and sophistication of fellow midfielders Mikel Arteta and Wilshere, both of whom have been criticised over the summer.

An encouraging display from Alexis Sanchez bodes well and, with Calum Chambers adjusting seamlessly to the role of centre back, it looks like the summer spending will pay off.

Arsenal's supporters, emboldened by this and May's FA Cup win, will consider themselves contenders for the league now.

This, of course, is something that we've heard before many times.

But, if they can maintain this style of football, if they can play with this much confidence when it really counts, deep into the final third of the season, there's no reason why this can't be the season that they finally get to say: "We told you so."

THE GOOD & THE BAD

IMPRESSIVE: CALUM CHAMBERS (Arsenal)

Chambers made his name at Southampton as an exciting young right back, but Arsene Wenger appears to have other ideas. With Per Mertesacker still recovering from his World Cup-winning summer, Chambers has been moved to the centre of defence and he's performed admirably. Comfortable on the ball and good in the air, at the very least he'll be able to provide good cover for the first-choice partnership.

LOSER: SAMIR NASRI (Man City)

Nasri's day started with the sight of all the UK newspapers and their entirely accurate claim that he had called the Arsenal supporters "idiots". It ended with his withdrawal at half-time, an understandable punishment for an underwhelming performance. In between, he was booed every time an Arsenal fan noticed him. This is not a day he will record with any joy, should he keep a diary.

TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: AARON RAMSEY (Arsenal)

Another sign that Ramsey (right) is making up for lost time. Last season, it seemed that the Welshman was making an unstoppable break for the Player of the Year Award - only to be stopped by another injury. Last night, he was ready to go again. Technically excellent, he is also brave enough to make big passes without worrying about failure. This could be a huge season for him.


This article was first published on August 11, 2014.
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