Wenger looks forward with optimism
LONDON -- Optimism abounds at Arsenal. Winning the Community Shield is rarely evidence of the foundation of a dynasty but completing their latest Wembley mission so professionally was a valid reason for the Gunners to be cheerful and rounded off what has been a good summer for the club.
"You want to win the game and look at the quality of the performance as well," suggested a cheerful Arsene Wenger afterward. "It was comforting to provide such quality. That's what was important for us today."
Perhaps Crystal Palace and Tony Pulis will dish out some cold, hard reality next Saturday evening at the Emirates Stadium, when the real business of Premier League football starts. Last season began with a heavy 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa that had many predicting the end of Wenger's empire before the campaign had barely begun.
Instead, he survived. And revived, eventually signing a new contract to follow winning the FA Cup and securing Champions League qualification. At Wembley on Sunday, he looked refreshed by a summer of relaxation that took in a trip to the World Cup and his team were in turn far too bright for a labouring Manchester City bereft of seven players still recovering from their efforts in Brazil.
Even in the light of their opponents' obvious lack of personnel, though, Arsenal were still impressive. They also, as Wenger noted, beat a top-four team, something that was beyond them last season, when they were brutally beaten by all three of City (6-3), Liverpool (5-1) and Chelsea (6-0).
"That's why it was important for us today," said Wenger, fully recognising his team's need to overturn that failing. Not getting caught cold in the opening minutes was a definite improvement and a path to eventual victory. It would not be Wenger's way to lock down a game's early stages. Instead, City spent the start of the match pinned back by Arsenal's superior gusto and creativity.
"In the first half we had 20 or 25 minutes where we were outstanding and we passed the ball around very quickly and looked a threat every time," said skipper Mikel Arteta.
"In games last season we've been guilty of conceding and it's difficult enough to play against these teams, let alone going one or two goals down in the first minutes," admitted Aaron Ramsey, whose own performance resembled the devastating form he showed until a Boxing Day injury robbed Arsenal of his services for almost half a season.
Meanwhile, City manager Manuel Pellegrini suggested his side "had two faces." 2-0 down at half-time, they improved after the break, only for Olivier Giroud's long-range effort to take the destiny of the Shield beyond doubt.
"We gave a complete performance in the first half," Wenger said. "In the second half our togetherness got us through. We kept our spirit and organisation."
Victory allowed the Arsenal manager space to praise his new arrivals. "[Mathieu] Debuchy was excellent," he enthused. "[Alexis] Sanchez was lively."
Particularly special praise, though, was reserved for Calum Chambers, a capture from the Southampton sales that, on this evidence, looks the type of signing Wenger made his reputation with -- where he sees something in a player that other judges did not spot.
Saints' callow right-back now looks an England centre-half of the future, if this type of performance can be frequently repeated. Only once, when Edin Dzeko blazed past him in the first half, did Chambers look at all unnerved by the occasion.
"For a 19-year-old he gave an outstanding performance today," said his admiring new manager. "It's impressive because he has not a long history in the position, because he was a right back.
"He can challenge both centre-backs and that's what you want. He's already among the best three that I have. To find another of that quality would not be easy," said Wenger when considering the transfer strategy to replace the departed-for-Barcelona Thomas Vermaelen. Wenger praised Vermaelen highly: "His behaviour was outstanding even when he didn't play."
Chambers offers varying options, as does Sanchez, who was given 45 minutes to show off his wares to Arsenal fans, many of whom were walking down Wembley way in new shirts that had "Alexis" emblazoned on the back. The Chilean's running from deep caused City plenty of problems; the Gunners' attack will be given an added and threatening dimension by his expensive addition.
"It's very difficult to compare but yeah, in the last two years I've been speaking about big transfers," said Wenger when asked about the fresh luxury of being able to make big deals like Sanchez. "In the years before that we always lost big transfers so [the current policy] has now strengthened the squad."
Arteta, who in replacing Vermaelen as club captain got to lift the trophy, was similarly enthused. "When you look at the bench and all the options we have to change the game, as I said, I hope it's going to be a good season," he said. "We ended last season well with the FA Cup so hopefully we'll continue well."
"I am very ambitious and I am also cautious," said Wenger when looking ahead to the new season. "The other teams have strengthened, as well."
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.