Arsène Wenger praised his Arsenal players for creating a “positive platform” for the coming season with their 3-0 win against Manchester City in Sunday’s Community Shield and took particular heart from the team’s success in beating a fellow contender for the Premier League title.
Goals from Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud secured a thoroughly deserved victory for Arsenal, who after going nine years without a trophy now have two in 85 days, with this triumph following that over Hull in May’s FA Cup final. City were, in fairness, under-strength, with a host of first-team players, most notably Sergio Agüero, Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho and Pablo Zabaleta, not considered for selection after only recently returning to the squad after being given an post-World Cup break.
Nevertheless, the champions’ starting lineup did include first-team regulars such as Yaya Touré, Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri, as well as the summer signings Willy Caballero and Fernando, allowing Wenger to reflect on a job well done before Arsenal’s Premier League opener against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
“To win today gives us a positive platform to prepare,” he said. “It was important for our confidence to win the game and it was even more important to have a big part in the game. That is a comfort to me to see that we can produce the kind of quality we have produced for some long patches in the game.”
Arsenal failed to beat City in the league last season, losing 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium and drawing 1-1 at the Emirates Stadium. They also failed to beat Chelsea home or away and lost at Liverpool and Everton.
“That’s why it was important for us today not to lose the game,” Wenger added. “Last year we were very consistent against below-top-six teams and not consistent against top-six teams. The year before it was the reverse. I hope this year it will be right on both sides.”
Wenger revealed that he had given Thomas Vermaelen permission to leave the club at the end of last season and praised the Belgian for behaving “with dignity” prior to his £15m move to Barcelona. The Frenchman also confirmed that Mikel Arteta will be Arsenal’s full-time captain, with Per Mertesacker his understudy.
For Manuel Pellegrini, the hope is that the bulk of his squad have the required match fitness when their defence of the Premier League title begins against Newcastle on Sunday. “It will be difficult to be ready,” said the City manager. “We have seven players who have just worked five days and another five players who have worked eight or nine days, so we will see which of them are ready and which of them are not ready.”
Pellegrini again suggested that Joe Hart will face a battle to be a regular for City, having said last week that the club have “two No1 goalkeepers” after the £4.4m arrival of Caballero from Málaga. The 32-year-old Argentinian made his City debut on Sunday and could not really be blamed for any of Arsenal’s three goals.
Asked if Hart, who was dropped for a period last season and was an unused substitute here, will start for City at St James’ Park at the weekend, Pellegrini said: “All the 22 players we have in our squad must demonstrate who is No1 in all the positions. Joe finished last season playing very well. We will see next Sunday which players start against Newcastle.”