Just hand Arsenal the Prem title and be done with it…


Well, well, well. It turns out that this Community Shield did matter after all. What other conclusion could one draw from the irrational, overly exuberant celebrations? Players pinwheeled away after the goal, hyping up their fans. The manager jumped and pumped his fists in celebration. It was all, if I’m being honest, a bit unseemly. Wolverhampton would like a word with Walker and Guardiola after their histrionics. As for us at Arsenal, well, we won, and that speaks for itself. Does it mean anything in the long run? Time will tell.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This was, after all, “just” the Community Shield, a glorified preseason friendly that happens to have silverware attached to it. Still, I’d shoehorn it in somewhere between the League Cup and FA Cup. One has to win the Prem or FA Cup (or, in our case, finish second when the same club wins both) just to qualify. There’s something in that, maybe not quite enough to hang your hat on, but something all the same. We’ve started the season with two cups already and are quite obviously on our way to a domestic quintuple.

More seriously, both Arteta and Guardiola named squads about as close to full strength as possible, with Jesus and De Bruyne both out due to injuries of varying severity. Even if the result mattered little, there was no doubting the significance. For the first half hour, City dominated possession to the tune of something approaching 70% but had little to show for it. Our backline was close to impregnable, and Haaland was all but invisible. From there, we grew into the game and looked about as good as we’ve ever looked against one of the best squads money can buy, legally or not. Again, it’s just the Community Shield.

Rather than drawing any deeper, broader conclusions, let’s have a quick look at this and that.

Kai Havertz
Yes, he spoiled two gilt-edged point-blank chances, putting directly at Ortega. On that, one might rate him an out-and-out flop. However, in just about every other area, he was stellar. He pressed, he dropped deep, he linked up with others, he won aerial duels; in short, he did just about everything he was asked to do short of scoring. Scoring is of course what we need him to do, but he was thrust into the CF role on short notice and is still looking to click with Ødegaard. If he plays like this on a weekly basis, he’ll be nailed on for 12-15 goals.

Martin Ødegaard
How did we manage to sign this man? He picked up where he left off from last season. He was deft, insouciant, masterful. The only shame of it was that his counterparts couldn’t finish the chances he served up. There were perhaps a half-dozen occasions when his first touch elicited audible gasps from the Wembley crowd and another for his second touch. He’s still growing into his potential as a player and a leader, and we should be counting our blessings for having signed him

Jurriën Timber
If this keeps up, Zinchenko is in serious trouble. Timber is about to do to him what he did to Tierney. He’s just as adept at inverting and tucking in and is quite a bit better at defending, spending quite a bit of time denying Silva (and Walker behind him) any space to operate. If he starts to show chemistry with Martinelli or Trossard that’s anywhere close to the kind that White has had with Saka, it’s lights out for anyone hoping to take points from us.

Aaron Ramsdale
It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times. At one end, Ramsdale was very nearly chipped by Rodri, who saw him off his line and put his midfield potshot just a few inches over the crossbar. Cue the “SIGN RAYA” tweets. At the other, it was Ramsdale denying Rodri’s point-blank header and his penalty to secure the win. It’s too early to say we don’t need Raya, even if rumours of signing him have motivated Ramsdale to raise his game. He’s just turned 25 in May, quite young for a keeper, and he’s probably been reading too much about his achievements. He’ll need some grounding and some seasoning if he’s to be our #1 GK.

Mikel Arteta
For as well as we played, I have to admit that Arteta didn’t exactly bathe himself in glory. Most of the first half saw Man City (predictably) gobble up possession, and, while we did do well to absorb that possession, it didn’t feel like we had a counter-attacking plan in mind, absent a few long balls over the top from Ramsdale. That said, the lads were clearly well-drilled in handling that pressure and in pressing when they could. Silly yellow cards to Partey, Havertz, and himself hampered options somewhat, but the real shortcoming came after halftime when Guardiola seemed to abandoned the possession-based approach and went more to counter-attacking. We were too open to those counters, and Arteta didn’t seem to anticipate or adapt.

The Verdict
While I’ve taken pains to couch this repeatedly in “it’s ‘just’ the Community Shield” kind of language, it’s hard to resist the idea that beating Man City stands for something. Timber and Havertz were stellar while Rice was solid but not spectacular, and it’s clear that the new signings are still finding their way into the squad. We’ve been run ragged by Man City, especially in the midfield, and it was perhaps significant that the introduction of Foden and De Bruyne was not enough to turn the tide in City’s favour. The Rice-Partey pairing looks strong enough and dynamic enough for matches against sides that seek to dominate possession, and, for as much as City dominated possession, it was sterile. They finished the first half without a single shot on target.

It’s obviously too early to claim that we’ll win anything beyond this particular piece of silverware, but it’s getting hard to resist the kind of optimism among the fans and confidence within the squad that results in winning real silverware. Besting City in any fashion signifies something. Just what it signifies will have to wait until the end of the season. Without elevating expectations, one of the many reasons we stumbled down the stretch was an absence of belief. A result like this one can breed belief. Time will tell. For the moment, bask in the glory of having bested, if not battered, the best that money can buy.

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12 thoughts on “Just hand Arsenal the Prem title and be done with it…

  1. consolsbob

    Very fair and reasoned. However, the referee was awful. By all means book players for being stupid but please start booking players who seek to do actual bodily harm game in and game out. I am looking at you Rodri.

    1. jw1

      Changed the complexion of the game, the call against Partey, and 2-3 non-calls Rodri was gifted. Had Partey not been booked under the new rule change, he’d have taken the professional foul against Foden when he initiated the move which ended in Palmer’s goal.

      The new rules under which Partey, Arteta, and Alvarz were booked– were instituted just recently. This was the first game in which they were in effect. Maybe Atwell gives each a warning to remind everyone?

      Or maybe he calls this one– which is a valid NFL tackle–

      1. Palladio43

        Reading the commentary here and elsewhere it becomes evident, as usual, that every glass, especially if filled with the proverbial Kool-Aid, is either half full or half empty. Obviously, if a team’s goal is CL, PL, FA, etc.. (in descending order) then this match, which only involves Arsenal by chance, carried little weight, aside from bragging rights and an opportunity (somewhat missed by MA) to try out certain players in possible positions.
        I doubt we learned that much except that team’s need to beware of the new carding rules and to prepare for 100 plus minute matches (which they could have already recognized by watching the Women’s World Cup). Soon we may, once again see 90 minutes of football and fewer histrionics and players rolling in agony after tripping on loose laces.
        Meantime I marvel at Arsenal remaining unable to unload players, in part because there are few buyers/bidders for their products especially when the only one’s willing to buy know this fact or cannot afford the asking price. At the same time, having committed to selling some of the deadwood or equivalent players, we still seem in need of more players and they may be snatched away before we can act.

        1. Jon Shay Post author

          I agree that I frequently drink a bit too much as I’m posting, whether that be decent scotch (Laphroaig, please) or Flavor-aid. Even if this was a low-stakes affair, it be enough for us to get the Man City monkey off our backs. Both managers named strong XIs and appeared to take it quite seriously.

          As to unloading players, we’re still largely in the poor position of trying to sell unwanted, underperforming, and overpaid players who have little interest in trading downward, status-wise, or taking a paycut. None of them seem so driven to play that they’d leave for a better chance elsewhere (except perhaps Balogun, who’s apparently more interesting in flirting for Inter than he is in impressing at Arsenal). Others seem content to ride the bench & collect their paychecks. I suspect we’ll start to sell players as the squad sheds the deadwood and can start selling the better players who find themselves slipping down the pecking order (Tierney, Tomiyasu, ESR perhaps, etc.).

      2. Jon Shay Post author

        can’t see the video anymore but I’d be willing to put a hefty wager on this being Rodri manhandling Havertz. Poetic justice: Ramsdale denied him twice from open play and again during the shootout.

    2. Jon Shay Post author

      After booking Partey for a clumsy but mild foul just seven minutes in, I thought Attwell was asserting his power. However, one two Arsenal fouls both lead to bookings while numerous City fouls went uncalled not to mention unbooked, it started to look someone in City blue had slipped a little something in his pocket. For Rodri to have finished without a yellow was ludicrous.

  2. A Simple Truth

    frankly I’m surprised you could even see the screen Jon with your 4-way rose-coloured blinders firmly affixed to your head…Havertz was far from effective when it came to most aspects, minus dropping into space on the second grade A chance he squandered…Timber is clearly more comfortable going forward on the right, as he struggled in that capacity on the left yesterday, and he only played there due to Zinchenko’s absence and the fact that MA doesn’t trust Tierney in the inverted back gig(possibly for good reason)…Ode was fairly average on the day, albeit he did press well when required…finally, there’s no way that Partey and Rice can be a regular pairing unless Havertz and Jesus, when healthy, are going to split time up top; not to mention, you should never take a page from Moyes’ tactical book unless you have a general disdain for all things offensively-minded…I’ll gladly take the win but this was far from a revelatory performance…your excessively flattering takes continually remind me that common sense isn’t so common anymore

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  4. Andy

    I’d have to agree with AST, (gasp…), on Havertz. I thought he looked out of his depth. Maybe it’s a confidence/ settling in thing, but I do think he’ll come good when TP breaks down, (as he inevitably will), and he plays the Xhaka role alongside Rice.
    Timber, however, I thought was outstanding. He’s 22, at a new team, and looked like he’d played for us for years. I can’t disagree that he’s maybe more suited to the right back position, but I don’t think we need to worry if Zinchenko is out for any length of time. I’d certainly play Timber over Tierney, not sure he’d displace White right now, but he’d certainly fill in without any drop off.
    Odegaard had some spell binding moments, pure class! but did anyone else notice all the misplaced passes? There were a few too many for my liking. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, he’s too good to keep making mistakes and, to be fair, if everyone was at full fitness maybe, just maybe, those passes wouldn’t have been misplaced!
    Saliba was his usual classy self, and alongside GM our centre backs were solid. Haaland hardly had a touch.
    Partey was class, a bit silly kicking the ball away for the yellow card, but hey, he won’t do it again.
    Rice will be immense. He just needs time to settle in with his new teammates. We all know he’s class, so I can’t see it taking long. By the time we play Man U, he’ll of found his feet.
    Saka and Martinelli were, well, Saka and Martinelli. Both were doubled up on every time they went forward so struggled a bit. This will be the same most games but, not everyone has the defenders Man City have. I expect 30+ goals between them this season, and a shed load of assists of course.
    Aaron Ramsdale has proper upped his game since Monaco and Man U. Wether that’s anything to do with Raya or not, who knows, (or cares), almost back to his best.
    A quick mention of the subs. Trossard looks an outstanding signing now he’s settled in, what an option!
    ESR looks like he’s struggling to find his role. I’d keep him if it was up to me, because when he does, he’ll be another classy option, (again).
    Vieira, aside from his great penalty, did nothing to excite, I’m not sure he’s ever going to be a starter.
    Eddie, for me, should have started. He’s, (at the moment), our best option up top.
    KT plays too many backward passes for my liking. I think with Zinchenko and Timber ahead of him in the pecking order, he’ll be gone before the end of the window.
    Apologies for waffling on, I was only going to say that this may be the confidence boost we needed. I know it was only a glorified friendly, but not getting spanked by Man City can only be a good thing right?
    I’d be very surprised if we don’t absolutely spank Forest on Saturday.
    Come on you Gunners!


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