Arsenal are involved in the traditional season curtain raiser for the first time since 2005 and make a third trip to Wembley in short succession to face champions Manchester City.
In reality, the game is a glorified friendly, however, it will be a good indication for both managers as to what kind of physical and tactical shape their team is in ahead of the season start.
Interestingly, this is only Arsenal’s 4th preparation match for the season. Even given the World Cup, most of their competitors have played at least 6. It could be an administrative quirk or else it could be new fitness coach Shad Forsythe making his presence felt? Who knows, frankly?
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger thinks this season’s title race will be more competitive than ever, with as many as six teams harbouring realistic ambitions of lifting the big prize in May.
”It could be more competitive, yes,’ he said. ‘Man United will certainly come back into it, so if you have six teams to fight for the championship that would mean that every other game will be of a huge importance.
‘It means there could be even more importance not to drop points against the teams who don`t compete for the championships.
‘When you look at the Premier League last year, it was down to one or two games won or lost and nobody can predict it. I think there were four teams in the race last year and there could be five or six this season.’
And on Arsenal’s relatively tranquil pre season, Wenger added, ”We can compete better today to buy the top players who are on the market and for years we have lost top players without being capable of buying top players because we were in financial management.
‘Today we are in a more comfortable situation but, let`s be honest as well, there are still more people out there who have more financial potential.’
Meanwhile, City boss Manuel Pellegrini sees the Community Shield as a chance to start the season on a strong footing, ‘We want to start the season much better than we did last year,” said Pellegrini.”We started poorly away from home and it took us time to repair the damage done by dropping so many points early on.
‘Winning The FA Community Shield would be the ideal start to the campaign.
‘”We had two very good games against them last season, winning one and drawing the other and, each time, they were very difficult but very different games,” the City boss reflected.
“Arsenal have brought in some new players, as have we, and just like last season, I expect both teams to be among five or six sides challenging for the Premier League title.
“We are happy that we will start our season with a game at Wembley Stadium and against a team as strong as Arsenal.”
Manchester City Team News:
On loan midfielder Frank Lampard will not make his debut this weekend as he has not trained enough this summer. Sergio Aguero, Martin Demichelis and Pablo Zabaleta are unavailable having not yet returned for pre season training after their World Cup exploits. Pellegrini has suggested that Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho and Bacary Sagna also will not play.
Fernando is in line to make his debut, along with goalkeeper Willy Caballero. Alvaro Negredo is missing because of a foot injury.
Manchester City (from): Hart, Caballero, Boyata, Richards, Rekik, Nastasic, Clichy, Kolarov, Fernando, Garcia, Milner, Nasri, Silva, Navas, Yaya Toure, Dzeko, Jovetic, Gudetti, Sinclair.
Player to watch: Fernando
Signed from F.C. Porto this summer, Fernando is a Brazilian holding midfielder who has a penchant for being a wee bit feisty. (He was once sent off and banned from all CONMEBOL competitions for a year for assaulting a referee).
With Dunga in charge of the Brazilian national team again, Fernando will see this move as the perfect platform to satisfy his international ambitions.
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal will be without Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski, who return to training on Monday following their successful World Cup campaigns.
Thomas Vermaelen looks likely to join Barcelona this weekend, so Calum Chambers is likely to start at centre half. David Ospina (thigh) is out. Olivier Giroud may start on the bench after a rusty performance against Monaco on Sunday. Theo Walcott (knee0 and Abou Diaby are not yet fit enough to be considered.
Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy and Joel Campbell are in line to make their official Arsenal bows.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Debuchy, Gibbs, Koscielny, Rosicky, Arteta (c), Podolski, Wilshere, Giroud, Chamberlain, Ramsey, Alexis, Monreal, S.Cazorla, Flamini, Chambers, Sanogo, Martinez, Campbell, Akpom, Bellerin, Hayden, Miquel.
Player to watch: Yaya Sanogo
Sanogo scored four goals against Benfica last Saturday and, by all accounts, was banging them in from all angles on Members Day.
City’s defence is a slightly different proposition, but you sense perhaps Sanogo’s confidence could really be boosted by a good display and with Giroud lacking fitness, it’s certain he’ll get some minutes on Sunday.
Match Facts & Stats
Manchester City have lost only one of their last eight games against Arsenal in all competitions (W4, D3).
The sides met in the Charity Shield in November 1934 at Highbury, with the Gunners prevailing 2-0 on that occasion.
The Gunners last contested a Community Shield at Wembley in 1999, beating Manchester United 2-1. They last played in the Shield in Cardiff in 2005, going down 2-1 to Chelsea.
Arsenal have lost four of their last six competitive matches at Wembley (W1, D1).
City have won the Community Shield or Charity Shield on four occasions, but never at Wembley. They beat Chelsea 3-2 at Villa Park in the 2012 edition.
Vanishing spray to enforce the ten yard rule will make their first appearance in England for this fixture.
The referee will be Michael Oliver.
I fancy this might go to penalties with both sides missing a fair few players. I’ll say 2-2, goals from Dzeko, Milner for City and Sanogo and Cazorla for Arsenal.
Arsenal play at home to Crystal Palace at 5.30pm next Saturday. Manchester City face a trip to Newcastle United next Sunday at 4pm.