Arsenal and Manchester City will contest the FA Community shield in the annual curtain-raiser ahead of the English Premier League season. It will be an intriguing meeting of two teams coming off successful campaigns.
Arsene Wenger's FA Cup winners haven't vied for this shield since 2005. That's the last time the Gunners entered a season on the back of a trophy win.
By contrast, City are competing in their third Community Shield match since 2011. Manager Manuel Pellegrini steered a classy, attacking team to the Premier League title in his first season in England.
Expectation for both clubs is understandably high. But it's perhaps Arsenal who arrive amid more good will.
Enthusiasm has been created by a summer recruitment drive where Wenger has spent big to sign Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez, defenders Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers, as well as goalkeeper David Ospina.
Wenger's willingness to break a seeming career-long habit and act quickly in the market has many Arsenal supporters buzzing ahead of the new season. Even the players are getting caught up in it.
Attacking midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has heralded the new signings and what the spending has done for squad morale, per Arsenal.com reporter Isaac Moore:
But it's really exciting to see players like Alexis come in. It brings a good lift to the squad and I can feel it myself. You want to get to know them and try and impress them. You want to gel with them as quickly as possible.
"We haven't even seen Mesut Ozil yet and our German World Cup winners. When they come back, that will give us another lift. It's exciting times at the club.
Before delving into a preview of this Community Shield encounter, here's all the relevant schedule information, including start time and television details:
|Date, Time, TV and Live Stream Information|
|Date||Venue||Start Time||TV||Live Stream|
|Sunday, August 10||Wembley Stadium||3 p.m. BST / 10 a.m. ET||BT Sport 1 / Fox Sports||BT Sport App / Fox Soccer 2Go|
|BT.com and Fox Sports|
Sanchez to Play Central Striker
There are two key aspects to focus on in this game. Chief among them is Sanchez getting another chance to impress as a central striker.
Wenger initially signed Sanchez from FC Barcelona as a wide forward who could be converted to play through the middle. He's going to take a closer look at the potential for that conversion at Wembley, per Mirror reporter Mike Walters.
It's an interesting experiment, and this is the ideal game to test it in. Sanchez saw some action in central areas during the second half of Arsenal's 1-0 defeat to AS Monaco in the Emirates Cup.
However, that was a preseason tournament. Even though legacies aren't built on Community Shield wins, playing a domestic top-four rival is sure to make for a more competitive atmosphere.
Sanchez can handle a role as central striker. Despite his short stature, the pint-sized pace merchant is deceptively stout and stocky.
More important, few players time and vary their runs through defensive gaps as well as Sanchez. It's that fluid movement that no doubt attracts Wenger to the idea of deploying Sanchez centrally.
It's an idea Barney Ronay of The Guardian believes could remind Wenger of two of his most famous conversion projects:
Already there is a suggestion Wenger intends to convert him into the kind of pacy, hard-running central striker his team so obviously needs, just as Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie were both ushered in from the left wing and transformed into refined and thrillingly complete central strikers. Sánchez has the speed, close control and finishing ability to suggest he might thrive as a cutting edge.
If Sanchez does start through the middle, one interested party will be current centre-forward Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman has struggled for consistency in front of goal since arriving at Arsenal in 2012.
The more Wenger teases the idea of making Sanchez a striker, the more uneasy Giroud should become about his own position.
Tensions Simmering Between Pellegrini and Wenger
The pace of Arsenal's spending this summer hasn't stopped Wenger from criticising what he sees as sharp financial practice by City. The Gunners boss specifically targeted the loan deal for ex-Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard.
According to Daily Star writer Rhys Turrell, Wenger appeared to slyly suggest the signing, involving loaning Lampard from City-owned club New York City FC, is an attempt to subvert Financial Fair Play rules:
Is it a way to get around the fair play? I don’t know.
It was just a surprise that he went to Manchester City, because he in fact went to New York, and the shortest way is not to travel to New York first and then to Manchester.
Wenger's thinly veiled attack prompted a typically defiant response from Pellegrini, per a Press Association report featured in The Guardian:
I think as managers we have enough problems with our own teams to be talking about other teams.
The only thing I can say is that we have important restrictions about the amount of money we can spend, and Frank Lampard was a free player – we didn’t spend any money in bringing him from New York City to Manchester City.
It's ironic that two managers as philosophically similar as Wenger and Pellegrini would find themselves at odds over any issue. Both have consistently built teams on the basis of attractive, forward-thinking football.
City were a joy to watch last season, while even after their barren spell, no team can produce exciting and creative combinations quite like Arsenal.
Hopefully, any simmering tension between the two managers won't transmit to the players on the pitch. That would cause a spiky, scrappy game.
Instead, keep fingers crossed for an open and entertaining affair at Wembley.
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