A resounding 3-0 defeat is never welcome. It represents a thumping; the kind of loss where few positives can be gleaned. In fact, 3-0 defeats often border on the embarrassing.
Manchester City’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal at Wembley in the Community Shield, though, comes with an array of caveats. Looking too deeply into this game for indicators as to how the new season will shape up is a dangerous exercise.
City were without a host of players who will constitute the core of their first XI this season. Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernandinho, Sergio Aguero, Bacary Sagna and Frank Lampard only started training last week and were therefore not considered for the game at Wembley, while David Silva was left on the bench.
The World Cup, it seems, has disrupted City’s preparations considerably.
It meant they started the match with an unfamiliar back four. Gael Clichy played on the right and looked uncomfortable throughout, with left-back Aleksandar Kolarov and the centre-back pairing of Dedryck Boyata and Matija Nastasic also struggling to maintain their shape and composure under the pressure of Arsenal attacks
Time and again they would collapse as Arsene Wenger’s men charged forward, none of them willing to take responsibility in the way Kompany does when he is fit. Understandably, there was a lack of cohesion amongst the makeshift back four which invited Arsenal pressure and undermined City throughout the game.
It’ll be a long time before this particular back four is on show again, of that we can be almost certain.
And they weren’t the only ones who struggled to make an impression. Yaya Toure failed to offer the same kind of impact, both defensively and offensively, as he did last term, and Edin Dzeko just couldn’t get into the game, albeit on very limited service.
The bright spots were few and far between. Fernando looked full of energy and willingness to tackle, even if his decision-making, at times, seemed somewhat wayward, and the introduction of Silva saw City control possession far better than they had done. The Spaniard is the most influential attacking player in a Blue shirt, and his team-mates were visibly lifted by his half-time arrival.
And much like the rest of pre-season, Stevan Jovetic provided City with an energy and inventiveness that will be vital to the club’s chances of success if he can replicate it across the coming campaign. This is an extremely talented player who was rarely available to City last season. It may be a hackneyed phrase, but the Montenegrin will be like a new signing, if he can do what he failed to do last season and stay fit.
He loves to find space in between the opposition midfield and defence, before turning and running at defenders with pace. He’s a remarkable prospect and one Pellegrini will be desperate to use more often than he managed in an injury-hit debut season at the club. With Aguero struggling for consistent fitness, it’s hardly an exaggeration to say Jovetic is starting the season with a chance of cementing himself as City’s main forward.
Their unfamiliar starting XI doesn’t provide an excuse for the result or performance against Arsenal, both of which were poor, but those who feel the result at Wembley in the season’s curtain-raiser has any bearing on the Premier League season which gets underway next week should ask David Moyes how much winning it as Manchester United boss helped him 12 months ago.
The lack of desire at Wembley was odd but as soon as City return to somewhere near full strength better performances will undoubtedly follow.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_