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Three Points: Barcelona vs. Elche

La Liga Aug 24, 2014
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John Brewin profile picture Posted by John Brewin
Aug 10, 2014

Three Points: Arsenal vs. Man City

ESPN FC's Steve Nicol joins "SportsCenter" to discuss Arsenal's Community Shield victory and to give his favourite for the Premier League trophy.

LONDON -- Three observations from Arsenal's 3-0 victory over Manchester City in the Community Shield.

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1.  Arsenal shine, City disappoint

Another glint of silver: Arsenal are getting used to this. Though the Community Shield is an unreliable litmus test -- the last winners to subsequently claim the Premier League title were Manchester United in 2010 -- it was clearly enjoyable to win.

Arsenal won well. Their goals came at just the right time. When Manchester City woke from their first-half slumber to threaten heavily, with both Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic getting close, substitute Olivier Giroud crashed in a 60th-minute goal that killed off a comeback. First-half goals from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey were fully deserved on the balance of play. The champions were usually to be found pinned back in their own half, or chasing down a pacy Arsenal break, with Alexis Sanchez usually in the vanguard.

There were positives throughout for Arsene Wenger. Jack Wilshere, as the manager had promised, looked fitter than he has been in a while -- certainly far leaner than at the World Cup. Ramsey looked in the form to repeat the excellence of last season. Calum Chambers, just 19 and in his first major appearance for his new club, looked highly assured at centre-back. The loss of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona does not now look quite so problematic now

Manuel Pellegrini, without his tranche of World Cup knockout stars, selected from a hugely under-strength squad. This team looked like the type of starting XI that might grace a Capital One Cup tie to Hartlepool, and especially in defence. His new additions, meanwhile, did not much impress, with goalkeeper Willy Caballero suffering a troubled afternoon and Fernando looking off the pace in midfield, and less proficient a partner to Yaya Toure than Fernandinho.

It hardly helped that City's usual mainstays were not at the races, either. Toure had one of his languid afternoons, while Samir Nasri's main contribution was to be booed by jilted Gooners.

That Scott Sinclair got on for City suggested Pellegrini placed little importance in the occasion. Arsenal won the chance for another cavorting celebration on Wembley's turf.

2. City caught cold

The size of the travelling contingent of City fans -- roughly about the same as Wigan brought to this fixture last year -- suggested it was not high priority for supporters, either. Expectations lie in a title defence and deeper adventures in the Champions League.

Gael Clichy was switched from left to right as an inverted full-back. Dedryck Boyata began at centre-half, where he played precisely zero Premier League minutes last season. On this evidence, he will not be beating that total, either. The Belgian's presence in City's squad and new contract have the look of quota filling -- having begun as a youngster at the club, his presence adds extra wiggle room to a club wrestling with financial fair play sanctions.

PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEWS

As we count down to kickoff on Aug. 16, ESPN FC previews all 20 teams in this season's competition. Can Burnley, QPR and Leicester stay up? Will the new signings of Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa and Adam Lallana help usurp Man City's crown? Will Manchester United get back on track under Louis van Gaal?

"I have two No. 1 goalkeepers," Pellegrini had said at his Friday press briefing. That looked ominous for Joe Hart, and especially as Caballero played for the manager at Malaga. They journeyed to the quarterfinals of the Champions League together and there is little doubt that City signed him on the manager's say-so, rather than that of director of football Txiki Begiristain. Hart was dropped for a spell last season due to poor form, and Caballero might be more trustworthy than Costel Pantilimon.

Hart's hopes for his Premier League starting place must have been raised by his new colleague's travails.

Caballero is certainly more surefooted with the ball at his feet than Pantilimon, for whom kicking was a problem that may now be Sunderland's. One timely charge out of goal stopped Sanchez in a one-on-one challenge.

However, he had already been wrong-footed by Cazorla's opening goal -- although there was a case that he had actually been wrong-footed by Yaya Sanogo's run across the box in an offside position. It would have been a harsh decision had referee Michael Oliver and his assistants ruled in City's favour, though, and when Giroud unleashed a long-range effort on the hour, the Argentine looked beaten before the ball even reached him. Looking so prostrate and helpless was not in his favour.

Santi Cazorla fires the ball beyond Willy Caballero for the opening goal.

3. Gunners show off firepower

Sanogo is Wenger's Wembley wizard, it seems. With the young Frenchman having changed Arsenal's fortunes in the FA Cup final by providing an outlet to go direct, he perhaps deserved his chance to play in this game. Wenger's press day last week saw him enthuse about Sanogo. His high expectations seemed genuine, and Sanogo's often tangled limbs do add an unpredictability to Arsenal.

Giroud remains unfit, according to his manager at last week's Emirates Cup. The senior front man has perhaps not yet recovered from a personally disappointing World Cup, when his performance against Nigeria marked a particular low point.

When put through by Cazorla in the 26th minute, Sanogo had a chance to score Arsenal's second. He has to do much better than drag such a good chance wide, though his hold-up assist soon after for Ramsey's goal was evidence of what Wenger sees in him. Maybe those four goals in the Emirates Cup against Benfica were not a flash in the pan after all.

At halftime, Giroud replaced Sanogo, needing to prove his worth. His thunderous goal on the hour suggested he can rise to the challenge.

Both have plenty to ponder from the presence of Sanchez, whose instinct on this evidence is to use his right-sided position as a starting point for long runs that take him into the centre. It would be a huge surprise if Wenger does not play his new star centrally at some point, especially as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit again, and Theo Walcott is also soon to return.

The Chilean's versatility allows him to play anywhere across the front line, and he can do so more proficiently than his colleagues in the Arsenal ranks if he should settle in London. His 45-minute cameo was hugely promising -- once on the ball, he motored with menace, repeatedly carving great holes in City's disorganised midfield and greenhorn back line.

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