Result: Arsenal 1 – 1 Manchester City (4-1 on penalties)
Competition: Community Shield
Date: 6 August 2023
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Timber, Partey, Rice, Odegaard, Martinelli, Saka, Havertz
Subs: Turner, Tomiyasu, Kiwior, Tierney, Smith Rowe, Vieira, Trossard, Nketiah
In a tactically tight contest, Arsenal won the Community Shield to kick start what we hope to be a strong season.
Both teams found chances hard to come as their defences were well marshalled. It took a well curled effort from Palmer to break the deadlock. Arsenal were not fluent after conceding but Trossard’s last minute long driver took the game into penalties.
Fabio Vieira’s kick won Arsenal the game, but not before De Bruyne hit the bar and Ramsdale saved Rodri’s tame effort.
To lay down a marker for the 23/24 season, Arteta had all his latest recruits in the starting line up against the champions.
Timber, who has been impressive all across the backline throughout pre-season, played on the left side of defence in place of Zinchenko. Rice took up the “left 8” spot and Havertz started up front.
The energy and anticipation was palpable. You could see in the players’ eyes that they wanted to make up for losing to City last season. However, Arsenal’s start to the game was quite subdued and City dominated possession for the good part of the first 20 minutes.
The Gunners were limited to defending stoutly, blocking off passing lanes against City’s 4-2-4 formation while selectively pressing Ruben Dias.
The small moments when Arsenal had possession, City’s cynical fouling stopped momentum and frustration set in. Yellow cards were brandished to Partey and Havertz for kicking the ball away and tripping an opponent on a break respectively. Even Arteta was not spared a caution, rightly protesting why City wasn’t cautioned for some of their fouls.
Havertz, who for the first time played as a centre forward for Arsenal, won his aerial battles and was decently effective in holding up play. And it came as no surprise he was involved in the first decent shot on goal of the game on 25 minutes. He received the ball with his back to goal from a rampaging Ben White, swivelled and shot only for Ortega to block. The rebound dropped to Martinelli but the City defenders formed a wall to block the attempt.
The men in red slowly wrestled back control. Our possession looked more effective and we could keep the ball calmly and sharply. Ben White was enterprising with his passes and Timber’s confident feints and dribbles put pressure on City. But the main orchestrator, in and out of possession was all Odegaard.
He was involved in the next attempt, threading in Saka who darted in from the right and laid off for Havertz. The German’s effort with his right foot lacked the venom required to take it past Ortega.
Despite a long range effort from Rodri close to the end of the half, Arsenal ended the stronger side and would look to build on a solid last 10 minutes.
The tactical chess game continued into the second half. Patience was the name of the game.
Declan Rice showed a bit more of his tackling ability but also started making runs into the inside left channel the way Xhaka did to provide new angles of attack.
Stones had a header saved by Ramsdale and Saka missed after a whipped low cross from Ben White but for most of the 30 minutes, there wasn’t a lot of room to score.
It needed a great moment of quality to chance the complexion of the game and unfortunately, it came from City’s substitute, Palmer who curled the ball in with his left foot from the right. Tierney could have done better with the defending as it looked too easy for Palmer to feint and step into the box. 0-1 City
City almost doubled the lead immediately, twice, through a counter from Alavarez and Foden which was well saved by Ramsdale. The ‘keeper had to come to the rescue again from the resulting corner as a Rodri bullet header to the near post was pushed away to keep the score as it was.
The last few minutes of regular time saw Arsenal go to a back three with Vieira and Smith Rowe joining the attack. The ball just didn’t stick but they perservered with over 8 minutes of injury time.
In what looked like the final kick of the game, Trossard, who has been excellent in pre-season drove a low shot which deflected off Akanji to wrong foot Ortega and equalize for the Arsenal. 1-1 Arsenal
The match went into penalties as Arsenal dispatched all their attempts expertly. City’s efforts though were less than ideal as Kevin De Bruyne hit the bar and Ramsdale saved Rodri’s weak attempt. Fabio Vieira, a player who looked to prove a point this season slotted home the winner.
It was a tight game as both teams showed great defensive nous to cancel one another out. Defensively, Arsenal looked ready for the season though an extra week to iron out offensive play would be very much welcomed based on today’s game.
Onwards to a great season ahead!