City’s well under strength side proved no match for Arsenal in this chastening 0-3 defeat in the Community Shield at Wembley. A starting line-up that featured Boyata and Nastasic at centre back and a left back, Clichy at right back, never inspired confidence and they were easily turned and outpaced by Wenger’s quintessentially quick darting forwards and attacking midfielders. Due to their involvement in the latter stages of the World Cup, Kompany, Zabaleta and Demichelis amongst others only started training on the Monday before and were not deemed fit enough to feature here and that meant our back line was severely weakened.
It was no surprise that Arsenal started the sharper and City’s defence was hard pushed to keep them out. Even less surprising was the petty booing of Samir Nasri’s every touch. Not that it bothered him and he was thwarted by a blocking Arsenal body in his attempt to score from Clichy’s right wing cross. This however, was against the run of play as Arsenal moved the ball quickly and we chased shadows. The darting runs of Yaya Sanogo and Chile’s World Cup hero Alexis Sanchez in attack, the box-to-box running power of Aaron Ramsey and the guile of Santi Cazorla were giving us real problems. Behind them Arteta prompted and probed.
In contrast we lacked intensity in most areas of the pitch and were missing leadership at the back. Arsenal were able to pass the ball round and through us and our marking was poor and we paid the price when the excellent Santi Cazorla was given far too much room to fire inside Caballero’s left hand post in the 22nd minute. Sanogo could have added a second three minutes later but fired wide. Fernando managed to block another Cazorla effort, then another block at a corner denied Sanogo.
Fernando acquitted himself well enough on his debut but didn’t get enough support from Captain for the day, Yaya Toure. With our midfield overrun, we were even making the perennially average Wilshere look half decent.
City tried hit back through Kolarov’s powerful run down the left but his cross was struck behind Jovetic and the chance was gone. The Montenegrin striker also had a promising run down the left but it came to nought, and immediately after we found ourselves two down when Ramsey was granted freedom to slot home another angled drive.
It could have been even worse on the stroke of half time had Caballero not rushed out to make a brilliant block with his legs when the lively Alexis Sanchez was clean through and the City defence nowhere to be seen.
The return of Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany in particular cannot come too soon.
City’s improvement after the break was down to the introduction of David Silva.
David Silva’s introduction after the break saw a marked improvement in City’s play. The magician was back, doing what he is best at. His low centre of gravity, physical strength and character mean that he is hard to knock off the ball and here he was making the play, prompting and probing.
City were creating good chances: Navas crossed for Jovetic who headed against a post; then Silva released Kolarov down the left and Jovetic forced a smart save from Szczesny and blazed the rebound over.
Pellegrini made some more changes bringing on Milner for Dzeko, and new signing Bruno Zucculini for Yaya Toure, but before those registered Giroud took advantage of the disruption and space in midfield to curl a shot over Caballero and make it 3-0.
As the game petered out under the welter of substitutions had Fernando had an effort deflected wide from a corner and Micah Richards also headed wide from a flag kick.
We lost a glorified friendly, and it’s always disappointing to lose, but there is no need to be too despondent. Whilst City’s performance had been abject in the first half., this side did not bear much resemblance to our first choice team. The worry for us is that City look well under-cooked, and this has to be a concern with the season starting on the following Sunday. Three key members of our defence will not have had a game under their belts by the time that we play Newcastle.
Arsenal deserved their win, and deserve credit as they played some great football. They and their fans will have doubtlessly gone home with a deluded confidence and a massive sense of entitlement. Whilst they have a stronger squad than they had last season, they still lack defensive strength. This was their day in the sun, but they are, in horse racing parlance, “a top of the ground horse” with a lack of staying power. As usual they will be up at the top for the first few months and might even lead again, but they will again be found out in February and March when the grounds get heavy and they have to tough it out. Wenger can complain all he likes about City signing Frank Lampard or spending money (when his team is spending more), but it is his chronic inability to construct a sturdy defence that find him out. His best teams had elements of the great defence that George Graham constructed.
What have we learned from this game and indeed pre-season? Firstly whilst Nastasic and Boyata have their merits, our back-up centre half pairing is not of the required quality for the Premier League. Neither are leaders or have the authority to direct a defence. It was known last season that we needed a top class centre half to partner Vincent Kompany, and the signing of Elaquim Mangala or another top centre half is well overdue. Valuable pre season preparation time has been lost, so it may be best to see Kompany and Demichelis start at Newcastle as they have formed an understanding. One can only hope that they are fit and up to speed next Sunday. We still need Vincent Kompany more than any other player in the squad.
The real stuff starts and let’s hope that City are ready, willing and able for a game in front of a passionate Geordie crowd who will be up for it. Come on City.
Arsenal: Cazorla (22), Ramsey (43), Giroud (62)
Caballero: Had no chance with the first two goals, and did well to deny Sanchez one-on-one. He was though too far off his line when Giroud curled one over him for the third: 6
Clichy: Did well enough tracking his man though unfamiliarity with both position and team mates contributed to our defensive fragility. His distribution was erratic and probably due to playing on the wrong side: 5
Boyata: Decent enough on the ball and made some good blocks but like Nastasic he afforded his opponents too much room: 5
Nastasic: Composed on the ball but when it came to defending he was found wanting at this level. Didn’t get tight enough at the right moments and thus allowed Arsenal’s forwards too much room, which was exploited particularly for their second goal: 5
Kolarov: His strength is going forward and he created City’s best opportunity. Left gaps at the back though: 6
Nasri: Had a couple of chances and tried to create. Missed David Silva’s intelligence to play off.
Yaya Toure: had one of those days when he didn’t look too interested: 5
Fernando: Competitive throughout and most of it was within the rules. He isn’t shy, though, in using any part of his body to stop an opponent which eventually earned him a booking: 6
Navas: Looked dangerous on the ball and did his fair share of work, tracking back too: 6
Jovetic: Always lively and went closest for City. Looking good, and with better service will surely prosper: 6
Dzeko: Starved of service, he was barely in the game, but that wasn’t all his fault: 5
Silva (for Nasri 45): Made the play after the break, with his sublime intelligence and at least gave us something to enjoy. He battled hard to retain possession and used his low centre of gravity and hone body strength to good effect. Not every pass was hit with its usual precision but his class made him the stand out player: 7 (City’s best player) Milner (for Dzeko 59): No real impact: 5 Bruno Zucculini (for Yaya Toure 59): Was just settling in when he and others allowed Giroud too much room for their third: 5 Richards (for Kolarov 76): n/a Sinclair (for Navas 85): n/a
Best Oppo: Santi Cazorla: A delightful playmaker when not playing against City. An intelligent menace when he is, and he scored his well merited goal with precision. A lovely footballer who would grace a light blue shirt. So how about it next summer, Monsieur Wenger? 8
Refwatch: Michael Oliver: It wasn’t strange that he booked Fernando but how he let Giroud off scot free for a challenge that almost cut Yaya in half was a