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Thoughts on Arsenal’s Community Shield Victory

Arsenal beat Man City on penalties to win Community Shield

Mikel Arteta had hoped for a strong performance from his team in the pre-Community Shield press conference, but statistically speaking, the Community Shield encounter itself was a tight contest. Even though Manchester City expectedly had the lion’s share of ball possession, Arsenal matched them close in terms of output, as the Gunners had seven shots to Manchester City’s eight. The Cityzens had four shots on target to Arsenal’s three, while Arsenal had more shots off target, as well as less blocked shots.

In regard to the goals, Manchester City’s Cole Palmer, who replaced Erling Haaland to allow Julian Alvarez move up front scored a fantastic goal – a sweet curler that left Aaron Ramsdale no chance in Hell. The Gunners will have to blame themselves for the poor transition, but Kieran Tierney could have probably done better to close down the attacker, instead of allowing him to pick his spot and execute the neat finish. Arsenal’s equalizer had a touch of fortune about it, with Leandro Trossard latching onto Bukayo Saka’s tame pass and firing a shot that deflected off Manuel Akanji to send the game to spot kicks. The goal came really really late – on the 11th minute of stoppage despite it being for eight minutes, but when you factor in the clash of heads that involved Thomas Partey, I guess it’s okay.

The Community Shield also saw all three Arsenal signings start the game, which could serve as a template for the rest of the season, till Gabriel Jesus gains full fitness, at least. Kai Havertz, who had played as a left eight for a considerable chunk of the preseason campaign started as a center forward in Eddie Nketiah’s stead, and he had two big chances that were saved by Stefan Ortega after some good work from Saka and White in the byline. Jurrien Timber, who had played center back, right back and right wingback for the entirety of his career continued playing the Oleksandr Zinchenko role on the left, inverting to midfield and was a bright spark for the team before he was eventually substituted for Tierney. British record fee signing, Declan Rice, had some good 80 minutes under his belt, but he featured on the left eight position, supporting midfield and attack adequately.

Arteta was certain about the team’s unpredictability as his substitutions coincided with several tactical tweaks as Arsenal changed their game plan on the go. Trossard and Tierney’s introductions were pretty much like-for-like, even though Tierney didn’t invert when he joined the proceedings. However, the introductions of Eddie Nketiah, Emile Smith Rowe and Fabio Vieira saw Arteta make some changes to his setup, with Havertz dropping to the left right role to allow Nketiah spearhead the attack, but the German schemer continued to foray forward and support the attacking third. Arsenal also went gung ho as Gabriel was sacrificed late on to allow the team have more attacking impetus.

The penalty kicks were really good, and Vieira’s spot kick to win the Community Shield was a peach of a finish. Arsenal has had some form of ‘practice’, with the skills challenge against MLS All Stars, as well as those unnecessary penalties in the preseason defeat to Manchester United. All spot kick takers looked very confident, even though the taker that must have the hugest sigh of relief was Saka. He missed a decisive penalty in the title run-in against West Ham last season and also missed another in the exciting friendly against Barcelona, but big kudos to him for making himself available in the penalty shootout against Manchester City in the Community Shield. That shows some level of confidence and I hope he gets chances to convert some more in the course of the season.

Finally, Arsenal showed a good measure of confidence in the match against a Manchester City side that has been a constant thorn in the flesh of Mikel Arteta for the last couple of years. Pep Guardiola’s side did the double over Arsenal last season and the Cityzens would have been in bullish mode coming into the contest, but Arsenal held their own and put up a massive fight up till the very end, as shown with the equalizer. This will serve as a confidence booster for the players, and they would be happy to get one over the same side that knocked them out of the FA Cup and displayed them from the summit of the Premier League table, despite leading for a whopping 248 days.

Preseason is well and truly over, and all roads lead to the visit of Nottingham Forest, which will be a good way to open the Premier League campaign.


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Talking Points from Arteta’s Community Shield Press Conference

Every word from Mikel's pre-Forest presser | Press conference | News |

Mikel Arteta, in his usual traditional fashion, held a press conference for the clash against Manchester City with a chance to grab the first trophy of the season. It still baffles me why we have Community Shield matches the season after a team wins the domestic double, but I guess it’s okay to bring the second placed team in the Premier League to remind them how they fell short to the champions, since those champions were childish enough to win the FA Cup as well.

Manchester City’s FA Cup final against Manchester United was a pulsating affair with Ilkay Gundogan bidding his farewell to England in the best possible way. When you think of the fact that Manchester City beat Arsenal in the Fourth Round in their run to winning the whole damn thing, you can say it’s no less than they deserved. Ok, I think I’m digressing.

As expected, Arteta was asked about his thoughts on Aaron Ramsdale’s article on Player Tribune, that saw his goalie dig deep on some personal challenges footballers face in the modern day sport. He lauded his goalkeeper on his transparency and bravery, and commented on the responsibility the club has to well-being of its players – something Ramsdale also touched on. Still sticking with goalies, Arteta kept his cards close to his chest regarding the David Raya transfer saga, as you’d expect from the crafty fox that he is. 

The proverbial Elephant in the Room, which is the size of the Arsenal squad was addressed yet again, and the gaffer confirmed that while he was happy with the squad the way it is, he and of course, Edu Gaspar, are working on it, so we are to expect more departures before the transfer window closes. It is believed that the second highest signing for the club, Nicolas Pepe, is on the verge of having his contract rescinded, which will permit him to move to Turkish giants, Besiktas, on a free transfer.

If Pepe successfully moves to Besiktas on a free transfer, this would mean that Arsenal’s second (Pepe – £72m), fourth (Aubameyang – £56m), fifth (Lacazette – £52m) and sixth (Ozil – £42.5m) highest transfer arrivals of all time, cost the club £222.5m and left for nothing. Extremely smart business if you ask me!!!

On injuries, Arteta touched on the Gabriel Jesus situation, expressing his disappointment no doubt, but confirming it has to be done to mitigate a long term issue, so he wasn’t all doom and gloom, which essentially means that Jesus might not be out for a considerable chunk of the season that would make Arsenal do something drastic in the transfer window. I have considered the alternatives to cover for Gabriel Jesus while he’s injured, and it’s fair to say that in as much as we miss our attacking messiah, Arsenal has dependable depth to manage his absence.

It was expected that Arteta would talk about the club’s new signings, with the British record transfer, Declan Rice, taking center stage. Arteta spoke about how he sweet talked Rice to becoming part of the exciting project at Arsenal, lauded his excellent abilities, winning mentality and confirmed his leadership attributes, which is clear for everyone to see. The boss also spoke about fitting Kai Havertz to his team, with the jury still out for the ex-Chelsea midfielder following his underwhelming spell at Stamford Bridge.

Most importantly, Arteta was asked if he could challenge Manchester City yet again this season and the boss spoke about how Arsenal is much more better than how they were last season. Rice will add much needed security to the holding midfield role, Havertz will be utilized effectively to support the already potent attack and Jurrien Timber’s qualities will add to the club’s defensive depth which helps in the short-, mid- and long-term.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game against Manchester City and will provide a preview post to match.


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West Ham’s Bidding War Desires for Rice Comes to Fruition

Man City to rival Arsenal in race for Declan Rice - sources - ESPN

It has been well publicized that Arsenal is interested in signing Declan Rice with West Ham rejecting two bids from the Gunners for their prized asset. The Athletic’s Ornacle disclosed the details of Arsenal’s last bid – £90 million: £75 million up front and £15 million in performance related add-ons. Manchester City finally joined the race, making a £90 million bid for Rice that has also been rejected by West Ham. Manchester City’s bid was £80 million up front and £10 million in performance related add-ons.

This was West Ham’s desire from the onset, hoping to get a bidding war for Declan Rice to maximize their profits from their captain. They have placed a mammoth price tag of £100 million for Rice and it seems likely that they would sell him if the next bid from either Arsenal or Manchester City comes close to that. I was actually surprised that Manchester City paid the same amount with Arsenal for Rice, and this official bid clearly means that both clubs are going to slug it out to secure Rice’s signature.

Despite the whispers that Rice favors Arsenal, what is important at the moment is reaching an amicable agreement with West Ham for his services. At Arsenal, he will be a sure-fire regular starter, remain in the city of London with his family and will be part of an exciting project that could see him win trophies in the foreseeable future. He also has great leadership skills and could be in line to fill the leadership void set to be created with the imminent departure of Granit Xhaka. At Manchester City, Rice will have the likes of Rodrigo and the incoming Mateo Kovacic to contend with, but he can be assured of silverware in the near team due to Manchester City’s dominance in English football.

The gauntlet has been thrown to Arsenal and the Gunners have to stamp their foot down and go all the way to get their man. Bidding wars are normal in club football, and several factors come into play, but there will be a lot of emotions regarding this Rice transfer, dependent on the outcome. I’m with the school of thought that we need to break bank to sign him, because he is a generational talent and will revolutionize our midfield, especially with Thomas Partey’s future still in doubt.

I’d expect more drama on this Rice matter in the coming days / weeks. Let’s just hope we will be on the winning side.


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