The curtain was raised on domestic football in England for another season with Arsenal's imperious 3-0 triumph over Manchester City in the Community Shield. Though the game itself won't have a huge impact on the season ahead, the 90 minutes at Wembley on Sunday have gone some way to displaying what the victorious Gunners can be capable of this season.
Goals from three of the players who started their last competitive fixture, the now-fabled FA Cup Final win over Hull City, secured Arsene Wenger's side victory and highlighted a cogent and compelling performance. Stalwarts Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and finally (and finely) Olivier Giroud struck to send Arsenal to silverware yet again.
It wasn't just the goalscorers who chipped in to create a memorable day for the Gunners. New captain Mikel Arteta led out his side at Wembley as he did in May, and for that side to be comprised of new blood alongside old favourites was special also.
Of Wenger's four summer additions, three featured. Most impressive perhaps was Calum Chambers, who put in a performance fit for an established Premier League centre-back, full of bravery and composure that belied his years. Alexis Sanchez, too, was impressive in a workhorse display, capped by an exquisite through-ball to Yaya Sanogo that orchestrated Ramsey's goal.
Throw in fellow newcomer Mathieu Debuchy, filling the void left by new City man Bacary Sagna with aplomb, and Arsenal's new signings appear to be assimilating to Wenger's philosophy seamlessly.
The combination of new and old certainly worked for Wenger on Sunday, and that gained even further prominence when considering his three World Cup winners were absent from Wembley. With Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski ready for selection among his brightest and best, Wenger's squad looks the strongest he's had at his disposal for many years.
It's not Arsenal's side that makes this victory important, though—it's their opposition as well.
Manchester City may have been missing some important players—skipper Vincent Kompany and the irrepressible yet injury-prone Sergio Aguero were two high-profile absentees—but they are still the reigning Premier League champions, even if they didn't look it on Sunday.
Considering it was against Manchester City and teams of that calibre that Arsenal struggled against last season, this victory counts as a real thematic U-turn. Losses like the 6-3 at the Etihad, the 5-1 at Anfield and the 6-0 at Stamford Bridge brutally disrupted Arsenal's 2013/14 campaign—so to triumph handily over one of their former tormentors means a huge amount to the Gunners.
One result does not a season make, and for Wenger and his men, the onus turns to Crystal Palace's visit on Saturday, with one eye on a trip to Istanbul for the Champions League playoff with Besiktas on Tuesday.
Thinking back to this time last year, Arsenal headed to the Turkish capital reeling from an opening day defeat to Aston Villa and in a mire of disappointment and despondence. Unless Saturday's game at Emirates Stadium goes badly awry, that aura of dejection is sure to be nowhere near this Arsenal side, who are buoyant from their Wembley win.
This is an Arsenal team who are stuffed with confidence. They look well-drilled and able to contemplate different looks and options in formation and personnel—but most importantly they look hungry to add to their burgeoning collection of silverware.
The Community Shield might not mean a lot to some, yet it will serve as the ideal tonic for Wenger and Arsenal. It will set the tone for a season where the objective is to show the rest of England—and the rest of Europe—exactly what the men in red and white are capable of.
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