Last season, Arsenal suffered humiliating losses to Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League. Sunday’s 3-0 victory over the Citizens in the Community Shield could hint at a change in our performances against the big teams this season.
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Of course, we shouldn’t read too much into that match since it looked much more like a friendly than a true competition: Arsenal and Manchester combined to make 11 substitutions. The Gunners seemed more fit than the Citizens, who dominated ball possession but lacked penetration. Toure was surprisingly overwhelmed in midfield while his teammates sometimes made cynical fouls to stop counterattacks.
Wenger included three summer signings in his starting lineup but the goals came from familiar faces with Cazorla and Ramsey giving Arsenal a 2-0 lead at halftime before Giroud added a third in the second half.
Up front, Sanogo got the nod over Giroud and was involved in the first two goals. He found Wilshere on the edge of the box in the 22nd minute. Boyata fouled the England midfielder but the referee played advantage and the ball fell to Cazorla, who fired home a low diagonal strike. Three minutes later, Cazorla slipped a through ball to Sanogo, who was under pressure from Nastasic and missed the target.
Sanogo showed more composure in the 42nd when Sanchez played him in. The Frenchman cut inside Boyata and bought time for Ramsey to make a run inside the box. Ramsey took the pass from Sanogo and created space with his first touch before burying the ball into the bottom corner with his second. If Sanogo keeps performing at this level while improving his finishing, he could give the manager a headache for the starting spot at centerforward.
Giroud came off the bench at halftime and converted his first scoring chance in the 61st. The France international held off a challenge from Zuculini and scored with a long-range strike that looped over goalkeeper Caballero. That goal shows Giroud already feels confident. Last season, the Frenchman’s efforts went nowhere while attempting similar shots.
Sanchez stood in the shadow of Messi during his time at Barcelona, but on Sunday he showed he has the potential of a world-class player, who can both score goals and make assists. In the 12th minute, the Chile forward fed Sanogo, whose shot was blocked by Nastasic. Sanchez then had three passing options while leading a counterattack in the 29th. Sanogo made a smart diagonal run to his right but Sanchez preferred to pick out Wilshere to his left and the pass was intercepted.
Can Debuchy match Sagna’s level?
It will take a bit of time for Sanchez to have a good understanding with his teammates on the pitch. He wasted a good opportunity in the 44th by trying to be too clever and delaying a through ball to Sanogo. On the stroke of halftime, Sanchez got in behind the defense but Sanogo slightly overhit his pass.
At the back, I wasn’t really convinced by Debuchy’s performance although he won a good number of tackles. He’s ahead of Sagna in the France squad, but I feel Sagna is more sound defensively while Debuchy contributes a bit more offensively. Debuchy blocked a shot from Nasri in the 14th but went missing in the 38th when Kolarov cut the ball back for Nasri, who made poor contact with the ball.
Debuchy made a couple of mistakes in the second half. Jovetic outjumped the Frenchman to meet a cross from Navas in the 52nd but his header bounced off the post. Four minutes later, Debuchy failed to play to the whistle. He stopped running because he thought the ball went out of bounds, allowing Kolarov to slip the ball to Jovetic, whose powerful drive was saved by Szczesny. Then Jovetic intercepted a poor backpass from Debuchy in the 64th but Chambers cleared the danger.
Maybe Debuchy hasn’t hit his stride yet after playing at the World Cup this summer. But Arsenal is a notch above Newcastle and Debuchy must quickly be aware that what was acceptable for the Magpies won’t satisfy the manager.
Chambers made a strong impression at the Emirates Cup and his outstanding performance at Wembley showed it was no fluke. Strong in the air, good reading of the game, comfortable with the ball and a lot of maturity for a teenager. His only mistake came in the 41st when he allowed Dzeko to round him and square the ball back to Jovetic. Chambers should have opted for an inside route instead of tracking Dzeko so tightly along the touchline.
Getting ready for opening day
I hope there will be some fair competition between Szczesny and Ospina because the Pole goalkeeper is still struggling with his ball distribution and command of his box. Szczesny missed his catch from a corner in the 89th and was lucky to see Boyata head wide from six yards. To his credit, Szczesny quickly came off his line to beat Sinclair to the ball in stoppage time.
Winning the Community Shield means the summer training was good and that the Gunners are still hungry for silverware. But the season really starts on Saturday, when Arsenal will host Crystal Palace, one of the most physical sides in the Premier League. You can bet that match won’t be about technique but about desire and commitment. Will the Gunners have the right mindset on opening day?