It’s going to be a busy 24 hours for me so I thought I’d write my preview of tomorrow’s FA Community Shield match between Arsenal and Manchester City now. I’ve talked about why the match is and isn’t a big deal, but count me as one who’s incredibly excited for any kind of real games to start. The idea that Arsenal could soon be lifting another trophy makes me smile even thinking about it. Watching the Gunners take the field at Wembley again will be a delight.
This match is an interesting one tactically, as both Arsene Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini are still without many of their key players who were at the World Cup. They also will likely want to conceal some of their more innovative ideas going into their Premier League openers next weekend. As a result, the tactics might be more experimental than normal or they could be simplified. With a similar team to what they had a year ago, I expect Manchester City to play close to the style they operated a year ago. But I think Wenger might get creative with some of his tactics.
For instance, I don’t think Olivier Giroud will start the game. He didn’t look fit last weekend, and between Yaya Sanogo and Alexis Sanchez, Wenger has two wildcards at his disposal up front that Manchester City haven’t seen before. So right from the start, I think Arsenal will look much different than they did a year ago, as either option will provide pace and creativity up front rather than hold up play and power. And with Mesut Özil out, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey might get a shot at playing together in the midfield, which has been a rarity in recent years.
While I would like to see Sanogo start the game, I think Wenger will go with Sanchez up top, alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla on the wings. Afraid of what City’s sheer power can do in the midfield, I think Wenger will start Ramsey, Wilshere and Mikel Arteta in hopes that all three of them will be willing to put in serious defensive work all match. And in defense, I expect we’ll see Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy in front of Wojciech Szczesny. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nacho Monreal in there at either left back or center back.
The key to this game for Arsenal will be keeping David Silva and Samir Nasri at bay. The two creative forces have had lengthy summer breaks and will be well prepared for this match. With Arsenal’s defense still learning how to play with one another, this duo might have their way in the final third, picking out passes for those around them. And the problem with facing City is that Yaya Toure can be such a threat from his deep lying spot in the midfield. If too much attention is focused on Silva and Nasri, Toure will get on the ball and do serious damage. Arteta will have his hands full.
This is a particularly big match for Mikel Arteta, assuming he starts in his usual defensive midfield role. There has been increasingly loud clamoring for a new defensive midfielder at Arsenal, with many suggesting that this is the one area the club needs to improve should they want to challenge for the title. Arteta has seen all of the rumors, and he’ll be eager to prove all his doubters wrong. A strong performance against one of the most physically imposing midfields in the world might very well earn Arteta another year as the starter. But should he struggle, Wenger may be left with no choice but to buy a big name in that spot.
Many eyes will be planted firmly on big money arrival Sanchez, but this match will also likely be the competitive debuts at Arsenal for Chambers and Debuchy as well. The three of them will no doubt be looking to start off on the right foot, and there will be no better way to endear themselves to the fans than an impressive debut at Wembley. A goal for Sanchez, an assist from Debuchy, or a series of tackles from Chambers tomorrow could set them on the fast track towards becoming fan favorites. They’ve already brought so much optimism to the club without even playing a game, and now they have the chance to boost morale even more. I think Sanchez will put in a man of the match performance.
I’ve thought a lot about how I want to do predictions for the coming season. For the World Cup, I did elaborate predictions, giving a lot more than just a score. It was fun to write, and while I was semi-successful with some of my more random predictions about how and when goals would be scored, it wasn’t entirely conventional. I think for Arsenal games, I will switch to a more reserved prediction style, naming only a score. I might suggest a player or two who will have good games, but I won’t predict which players will score the goals.
I have a personal philosophy that I don’t want to root for any one player above another to score goals or points on my favorite teams. I want to root for the team as a whole, not individuals. Obviously, I have favorite players, and there are certain players I like to see score than others, but I don’t want to have any conflict of interest when watching my team play. It’s why I try to avoid selecting players from my teams on any of my Fantasy Sports teams (speaking of which, make sure to join the Fantasy Premier League league I’ve formed – see the paragraph at the bottom of this link here for details). So in short, I won’t overdo my prediction sections for Arsenal games.
I expect a high-scoring games given the absence of key names defensively for both sides. Per Mertesacker and Vincent Kompany are badly needed in the middle of their teams’ defenses and both Arsenal and Manchester City will miss their experienced defender. And both teams certainly are not lacking talent in the final third even with players still gone. My final prediction is Arsenal 3 Manchester City 2. It should be a good one.
Check back after tomorrow’s match for postgame coverage and player ratings. Enjoy the first taste of real soccer we’ve had in a while.