11 August 2014

Just what, if anything, did Arsenal's defeat of Man City mean? Anything at all?

On its face, winning the Community Shield may not mean much. Even for a match that pits the Prem champion against the FA Cup winners, there's little to be taken away from it, even less in a World Cup year. However, for as many players as City were missing, there's still something to be said for how well we played—even a depleted City side is superior to all but a handful of other Prem sides, and to defeat them 3-0 signifies something. Just how much it signifies, of course, remains to be seen.

One of the more-intriguing sideshows to the main event would be the former Gunners on display—Clichy and Nasri, of course, but perhaps also Sagna. Only two would feature, but there was enough spectacle to keep us all satisfied. Nasri floundered throughout his first-half performance, getting subbed off for Silva (a move that seemed to give City a bit more urgency and cohesion). He was booed loudly during the introductions, and I must say, I don't dislike the guy for leaving Arsenal so much as I dislike him for who he seems to be: petulant. Self-centered in extremis. Thin-skinned. And so on. So he fizzled a bit despite having a solid chance at denying Arsenal a bit of silverware and proving his critics (namely me) wrong. Karma.

More recently, of course, Bacary Sagna found his way to City and promptly fell into his role of watching someone else play right-back (in this case of irony, it was Clichy). One of the pics of the night has to be the one you see here, in which Sagna appears to feel like he's made a huge mistake. Maybe yes, maybe no. In either case, it's fun to contemplate. Sagna may have left, but he got his trophy and leaves gracefully enough to keep the gloating to a minimum.

However, the real story comes from how our squad performed. We did pretty well in going up against an XI that as many as 15 other Prem clubs would love to have, one worth some £172m in transfer-fees alone, by my reckoning. Against this assortment of players, we fielded our own hodge-podge, including three new signings and Sanogo playing in an odd 4-1-4-1 formation. Chambers and Debuchy sparkled, earning "special congratulations" from Arsène in his post-match comments. In fact, were it not for Ramsey's man-of-the-match performance, we might be toasting one or both defenders for their play. Suffering a bit by contrast was Alexis, who offered glimpses of potential but didn't quite deliver.  He did deliver an incisive pass forward to Sanogo, which eventually led to Ramsey's goal. Minutes later, Sanogo returned the favor, sending him in behind the defense only for Caballero to beat Alexis to the ball. As Arsène would later put it, Alexis looked "very lively but not completely ready yet". Pellegrini chimed in as well, saying that "he's a top player...he will be a great player for Arsenal."

Even with so many new players in the starting line-up (Chambers, Debuchy, Alexis, Sanogo), there was enough chemistry and understanding to dominate one of the best and most-expensive squads in the world. That does mean something, even if that expensive squad decided not to dedicate itself to the task at hand. It's a funny thing, winning that much, so suddenly. It placates. It satiates. It leaves a person complacent. Again, it was "just" the Community Shield, but one does have to wonder just how much fire is in that squad's belly. They have the talent to win the Prem. Do they have the hunger?

Even without Agüero or Kompany (whom City went without for long stretches while winning the Prem anyway) and without Fernandinho or Zabaleta, this was still a formidable City side. This result may not mean much, but it does lay down a marker. If that doesn't mean much yet, we'll get a bit more of a glimpse just over a month from now when City pay us a visit: 13 September. Mark your calendars.