LONDON (AFP) – Arsenal delivered a rousing demonstration of their Premier League title credentials by overwhelming league champions Manchester City 3-0 in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.
Buoyed by last season’s FA Cup success over Hull City, Arsene Wenger’s side took charge with first-half goals from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey before substitute Olivier Giroud added a glorious long-range third.
With £30 million ($50.5 million, 37.8 million euros) new signing Alexis Sanchez also impressing on a sunny afternoon in northwest London, Arsenal’s fans will hope it proves the precursor to a sustained title challenge, after seeing their side fall away last season.
Victory in the traditional season curtain-raiser — which witnessed the first use of vanishing spray in English football — suggests Arsenal are in fine fettle ahead of their opening league fixture at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
In mitigation for City, manager Manuel Pellegrini could point to the absences of first-teamers such as captain Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero, but his side’s rustiness will be cause for concern ahead of their season opener at Newcastle United.
With the millstone of a nine-year trophy drought no longer weighing them down, Arsenal made an assured start on their return to Wembley, with new signing Mathieu Debuchy obliging Gael Clichy to head a cross clear.
Debuchy then blocked a shot by Samir Nasri — lustily booed by the fans of his former club — at the other end, before Cazorla gave Arsenal the lead in the 21st minute.
Jack Wilshere was felled on the edge of the box by Dedryck Boyata, but play continued and the ball ran to Cazorla, who threw Clichy off-balance with a clever feint before drilling home left-footed.
– Giroud’s superb strike –
Edin Dzeko looked to get City level by racing away from Calum Chambers and teeing up Stevan Jovetic, but Laurent Koscielny produced a timely block. Moments later it was 2-0.
From Sanchez’s sweeping through ball, Yaya Sanogo played a pass inside that was slightly behind Ramsey, but the Welshman checked his run and smartly chipped the ball on before drilling a shot into the bottom-left corner.
It had been a less than ideal first 45 minutes for new City goalkeeper Willy Caballero — who was preferred to Joe Hart — but he helped limit the damage in first-half stoppage time by rushing out to prevent Sanchez collecting a pass from Sanogo.
Sanchez made way for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after a lively first-half cameo on the right flank, while City were given fresh impetus by the introduction of David Silva.
Jovetic twice threatened to halve Arsenal’s lead, heading against the post and blazing the rebound over before seeing a rasping 15-yard shot blocked by Wojciech Szczesny.
But Giroud put the game to bed on the hour, gathering the ball in the inside-right channel and launching a superb, dipping strike from 25 yards that plunged beneath the crossbar.
Arsenal’s fans goaded their City counterparts by aping their backwards-facing ‘Poznan’ goal celebration.
The teams will resume hostilities in the Premier League on September 19, by which time Pellegrini will expect to have witnessed significant improvements.