Sun, Aug 10, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Gunners harness Community spirit for City clash

AFP, LONDON

Vindicated by their FA Cup triumph, Arsenal approach today’s FA Community Shield faceoff against Manchester City buoyed by the belief that they are now credible challengers for the Premier League title.

The Gunners’ 3-2 May victory over Hull City ended a long, painful nine-year trophy drought for the North London club and as they return to London’s Wembley Stadium, Arsenal are setting their sights on even bigger prizes.

City’s 6-3 win over Arsenal last term exposed the big-game frailties that were to fatally undermine Arsene Wenger’s side in their title pursuit, but with a trophy under their belts at last, there is renewed belief at the Emirates Stadium.

“There’s been a little bit of negative media [coverage] regarding Arsenal not winning things over the years, but the whole way through that, since I’ve been at the club, we’ve always believed that it will happen soon,” midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain said this week.

“So the fact it did happen [winning the FA Cup], I don’t know if it was a relief, but it was just a really nice reward for the hard work and the togetherness that we’ve had to show for a little while,” he added.

Today’s encounter in the traditional curtain-raiser to the English season has been given an edge by Wenger’s decision to query City’s conduct during the close-season transfer window.

The Arsenal boss wondered aloud if Frank Lampard’s arrival on loan from City sister club New York City was an attempt by the Premier League champions to contravene UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.

He then appeared to suggest that City had illegally opened talks with new signing Bacary Sagna while the French rightback was at Arsenal.

The Gunners manager’s remarks were dismissed by City counterpart Manuel Pellegrini, who said: “I think as managers, we have enough problems with our own teams to be talking about other teams.”

In any case, neither Lampard nor Sagna will be involved at Wembley, as they are among eight City players who are still working their way back to full fitness ahead of the start of the new league season next Saturday.

Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Fernandinho and captain Vincent Kompany are unavailable due to their involvement in the latter stages of the FIFA World Cup, which concluded last month.

Spain striker Alvaro Negredo is sidelined with an injury, but new arrivals in the form of Argentina goalie Willy Caballero and Brazil midfielder Fernando could feature.

Arsenal’s trio of Germany World Cup winners — Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski — will not feature as they are also some way short of fitness.

Theo Walcott remains sidelined by a knee problem, but new signings Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Alexis Sanchez could all play after debuting in last weekend’s Emirates Cup pre-season tournament.

City face an exacting start to the season, with games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, and midfielder Yaya Toure said today’s match will provide a timely gauge of their preparedness.

“It’s a really interesting way to start the season, the Community Shield, against a top team like Arsenal at Wembley,” he told City’s Web site. “Even though we have only just started to train together as a full squad, we will be ready.”

Today’s game will see the vanishing spray referees used in the World Cup to keep the defensive wall back at free-kicks premier in English soccer for the first time.

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