Competitive English football returns to our screens on Saturday in the form of the Football League, but Sunday gives us the chance to watch two Premier League sides go head-to-head at Wembley Stadium.
The Community Shield, the traditional curtain-raiser for the new season, is upon us. Unlike last year, where Wigan Athletic met Manchester United in a decidedly one-sided encounter, Arsenal and Manchester City—two UEFA Champions League contestants—will lock horns to excite us in North London.
Arsenal toyed with a bit of 4-4-2 at the end of last season and showed us a glimpse of the 4-3-3 at the Emirates Cup, but we expect a solid 4-2-3-1 outlook here.
The three Germans—Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski—still haven't kicked a pre-season ball yet, and Yaya Sanogo may miss the clash with a hamstring strain picked up against Benfica.
It leaves Arsene Wenger short on his best players, but not short on numbers: Calum Chambers will fill in for Mertesacker, and an incredibly deep midfield can handle a re-shuffle with ease.
We could see a 4-3-3 with Mathieu Flamini/Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, but the 4-2-3-1 is a safer bet.
Manchester City Setup
City have played their usual-looking 4-4-2 in pre-season for the most part, and Manuel Pellegrini should stick with the system here.
With several unavailable due to FIFA World Cup 2014 exertions, Bacary Sagna and Fernando could make their "official" debuts, though the former is under threat from a relocated Gael Clichy.
Yaya Toure and David Silva are question marks, but the star performer in pre-season has been Jesus Navas on the right. He and Samir Nasri both missed the World Cup in Brazil this summer and look fresh as a daisy.
Key Area No. 1: City's Zonal vs. Arsenal's Runners
When dropping into a defensive shell in a 4-4-2, City spread their lines across the pitch and tend to mark zonally. They're nearly always outnumbered three vs. two in the middle so they can't man-mark, and it's up to whomever plays the roles to decide when to step in and confront the opposition.
Very good dribblers can tempt City into mistakes in this region, as Barcelona did by pushing Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi forward to create lanes in the Champions League last season.
Arsenal have an abundance of dribbling talent, with Ramsey, Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the most likely to draw a marker out and spring into the space he leaves behind.
Key Area No. 2: The Debuchy-Kolarov Flank
With Mathieu Debuchy and Aleksandar Kolarov set to line up against each other and spar, there's a chance the game is won and lost on their touchline.
If City can pin Debuchy back, test his limited defensive mettle and push Kolarov beyond him, low crosses into the box for Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko become a clear danger. The former has been in scintillating, predatory form during pre-season, and the Kolarov-Dzeko connection is well forged.
But as much as this represents a concern for Arsenal, it also presents a chance to attack. If City over-commit and overstep, there are few more fearsome right-backs surging forward than Debuchy.
The ol' "switcheroo" can become their route to success.