Arsenal won the Community Shield yesterday, beating Man City on penalties after a 1-1 draw in ‘normal’ time. It wasn’t really that normal, because there were 8 minutes of added time at the end – a precursor of what’s to come this season – and then that took even longer because play was stopped because of a head injury.
Leandro Trossard is a player who makes things happen for Arsenal. Sometimes they are beautiful things, sometimes not so much. But if you’re not in, you can’t win, and his shot deflected beyond the keeper very late in the day to send us to penalties. Recent practice for us paid off, we took good ones, City’s were poor. Aaron Ramsdale saved from the ghastly Rodri, and then Fabio Vieira dispatched his into the top corner to ensure we won the shield.
As much as you might look at this game as objectively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, when it kicks off, you want to win. It began in tedious City fashion, lots of passes, and more passes, and I know lots of people love their football but honestly it leaves me cold. We got back into it in the second part of the first half, and I think we had the best chances. Kai Havertz saw one effort saved, before Gabriel Martinelli had a shot blocked, and the German – starting up front – ought to have scored when he swung his right foot at chance created by Bukayo Saka.
I thought it was interesting Mikel Arteta picked him there. I guess it was a chance to have a look at him in that position. He knows what Eddie and Trossard can do there, so it felt like a bit of a wild card because nobody had put that down on their predicted team sheets. Maybe this is part of what the manager meant when he talked about being more unpredictable. I thought Havertz did pretty well but I do think there’s still a talking point around our options at striker.
The referee was annoying, as we got to see another episode of the PGMOL sitcom where they introduce new ‘guidelines’ early in a season, but then forget all about them after a couple of months. Thomas Partey was booked for nudging the ball away when he’d been penalised for a foul; Bernardo Silva committed two cynical challenges in quick succession – including a Harry Kane special on Declan Rice – and got away with it. Alvarez got booked for nudging the ball away; Rodri was allowed foul his way around the pitch without censure even though the ref had already set the precedent by booking Havertz for the same kind of foul the City man made at least twice. Not to mention a yellow card for Arteta. And on ITV, the commentary sounded like it had been bought and paid for by Howard Webb. Painful stuff.
City’s goal was a lovely finish, but defensively we were found wanting a bit. That transition moment has been a bit of a problem for us, and it manifested itself again. I don’t think Ramsdale could have done anything about it, but he then made two very good saves to keep us in it. One a little fortunate as Foden and his ridiculous eyebrows went through, but he spread himself and got the bit of luck, then a brilliant reaction stop from Rodri’s header. Add the penalty save to that, and David Raya is going to have to work very hard to usurp him if he does join.
Oleksandr Zinchenko described William Saliba as a ‘Rolls Royce’, during the week. Is there something better than a Rolls Royce? Because he is it. Arsenal did good business during the summer, but renewing his contract is right up there in terms of importance. There was a moment where he saw Kovacic burst into the box, kept an eye on him, and then just muscled him out of the way to win us a goal kick. It looked simple, but it’s fantastic defending. Meanwhile, the right-sided centre-half/right back we signed from Ajax was outstanding at left-back yesterday. Jurrien Timber tired late on, but until then was so involved in our build up, and defensively switched on too. Early days, but he looks a great addition to this squad.
It seems a bit odd to have got this far into the post without saying much about our £100m signing, but then I also think that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He did well enough, it’s clear he still has a bit to get to grips with when it comes to the system, and that might take a bit of time. He was obviously very happy with his medal and all the rest though – a nice way to kick off your career at a new club. Also, Martin Odegaard was sublime at times, and this wasn’t even one of his very best performances. He makes people fall over without touching them. How hard are Real Madrid kicking themselves these days?
I will admit, with City 1-0 up and not much time left, I was ready to just turn to the TV off as soon as the final whistle blew, but thanks to Trossard and our penalties, it played out in much more enjoyable fashion. As I’ve said, you can make the Community Shield as important as you like to yourself, but winning it was always going to be useful for a team which has suffered at the hands (feet? wallet?) of City in recent years.
Aaron Ramsdale said:
To us it’s a marker that we can beat Man City in a big game, when it matters. I’m not sure what it’ll be like during the season, but any mental block has gone. We’re now ready to push on.
While Arteta said:
This is great, it lifts us, the spirit, the belief and everything, we just want to play better and win games. That’s what we have to do.
Before making it clear the focus now turns to Saturday:
We know it’s football, you win a trophy today, but tomorrow you have to be training, you have to prepare for the Nottingham Forest game in the right way. It will be a very different game to this, a very difficult one as well and we know that we have to go day-by-day.
So, pre-season has ended on a positive note. The real work begins now, and hopefully yesterday provides a bit of a boost to the players as we prepare for Nottingham Forest this coming weekend. There will be lots to talk about throughout the week, so stay tuned for all the usual season preview stuff, and lots more.
We will have an Arsecast Extra for you this morning. James is away, so Andrew Allen will be filling in for him today. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @AAllenSport and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.
For now, have a good one.