Arsenal demolished a rusty-looking Manchester City side 3-0 to lift the Community Shield. Although it’s ostensibly just another preseason friendly, the victory has further boosted the positive morale that is building in the Gunners camp.
Arsenal, after all, have just comfortably beaten the Premier League’s current champions. City will point to a host of missing stars, but Arsene Wenger can do the same: He lifted the shield without the help of World Cup-winning trio Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski.
Any victory by a three-goal margin is likely to inspire excitement about a team’s attacking options. Speaking to Arsenal.com after the match, Wenger admitted that he is somewhat spoilt for choice:
I have more attacking options than I had for a long time - that's for sure. Three, four, five years ago, every year we lost a big player. In the last two years, we added players like Ozil and this season like Alexis so of course that strengthens the squad.
However, there’s just as much buzz about an emerging star at the back. Calum Chambers was handed a start at centre-half and he looked remarkably composed throughout the 90 minutes.
For a 19-year-old, his calmness is remarkable. It’s all the more impressive when you consider how little experience he has as a centre-half. In the academy system, Chambers played predominantly as a central midfielder. When he made the breakthrough into the Southampton first-team, it was as a right-back. Nevertheless, Wenger has spotted the ingredients for a top centre-back. In his post-match press conference, he said:
I saw him there when I bought him and I play him there. For a 19-year-old he had an outstanding performance today. The kind of performance he delivered today is very promising. It's impressive because he hasn't got a long history in this position because he was a right back and I think if all goes well he has a good career in front of him.
For Chambers to have settled so quickly is an enormous bonus. Arsenal have lost Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona, and appeared to lose Laurent Koscielny with an Achilles problem halfway through the game. With Mertesacker yet to return to training, Chambers will surely be pressed in to Premier League action right away.
Arsenal will still need to add another centre-back, but Chambers’ assured performance means Wenger may be tempted to sign a fourth-choice rather than someone who would block the young Englishman’s path to the first-team.
Elsewhere, there was plenty more for the Gunners to be delighted about. Alexis Sanchez was busy and dangerous on the right-flank, ably supported by the excellent Mathieu Debuchy. Aaron Ramsey continued his imperious form of 2013/14, and Kieran Gibbs looked every inch the ideal left-back in his new No. 3 shirt.
This win has a symbolic significance. Last season, Arsenal struggled when they came up against the big teams. Against City, they displayed confidence and conviction. The manner of this victory spoke for itself.
The Gunners may yet wilt under greater pressure, but the signs are encouraging. Arsenal, it seems, are a club on the up.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report’s lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2014/15 season. Follow him on Twitter here.