Arsenal edged Manchester City via a penalty shoot-out following an initial 1-1 draw in regulation time in the 2023 Community Shield on Sunday evening.
Last season’s Premier League and FA Cup winners faced second-placed Arsenal in the traditional curtain raiser to the new domestic campaign, as the two best sides in the country faced off at Wembley Stadium.
The game started relatively slow, with both sides gauging a feel for the game as the early season rustiness was apparent for both. Manchester City dominated possession early on, but the first real chance of the game fell to the London side.
Ben White skipped past Manuel Akanji down the Arsenal right before releasing Kai Havertz in the Manchester City box. The German forced a good save from his international colleague Stefan Ortega, while the rebound fell to Gabriel Martinelli, who saw his effort blocked by John Stones.
It was Kai Havertz again who found himself in a good area not long after, after the German was tee’d up by Bukayo Saka, before forcing a second excellent save from City’s Stefan Ortega in the first half.
With the period of 45 minutes growing to a relatively uneventful close, Manchester City came out slightly stronger, having their first shot on target of the match via a John Stones header, as the Englishman was denied by Aaron Ramsdale.
Changes were imminent for the blues, as Phil Foden replaced Jack Grealish – who had a quiet afternoon by his standards, before Mateo Kovacic and Erling Haaland saw their numbers up, with Kevin De Bruyne and Cole Palmer replacing the pair.
That duo would create an instant impact, after a ball ricocheted into the air giving De Bruyne chance to head it into the path of Palmer, who cut inside and accurately fired the ball past Ramsdale, giving Manchester City the lead after 76 minutes.
Arsenal pushed and probed for an equaliser, desperate to get back into the friendly, and the Gunners’ efforts would prove to be successful, as Leandro Trossard’s deflected shot would creep past Stefan Ortega in the 10th minute of additional time.
With no extra time, the game went straight to penalties. Captain Martin Odegaard stepped up first for Arsenal, neatly converting, before Manchester City’s captain failed to match, hitting the bar from 12 yards. It would be Arsenal who would go on to win the Community shield, scoring all four penalties, with City having De Bruyne and Rodrigo miss from the spot.
With that being said, here are five things we learned from Manchester City’s fourth and final pre-season match of the 2023/24 season!
Cole Palmer: A big season ahead
Early reports in the ongoing summer transfer window suggested the youngster may be on the move this summer, with a loan move projected for the winger, as Brighton & Hove Albion, Burnley, and several other clubs show firm interest in the 21 year-old.
However, the departure of Riyad Mahrez to Saudi club Al Ahli leaves a gaping hole on the right-wing for Manchester City – one which Cole Palmer will be hoping to fill. Following an impressive pre-season, the Englishman has certainly presented his case to Guardiola.
Mateo Kovacic fits like a glove
The departure of Ilkay Gundogan unquestionably left a huge mark on Manchester City, with the ever-reliable German midfielder leaving to join Barcelona. However, Mateo Kovacic has walked into the side and has been exemplary since arriving from Chelsea.
The Croatian midfielder arrived for just £25 million and has left an imprint already. Kovacic was instrumental in his 64-minute cameo on Sunday evening, running the show in, dare we say it, Ilkay Gundogan-like fashion.
A lack of penalty takers: A cause for concern?
After Kevin De Bruyne and Rodrigo failed to convert from the spot in the shoot-out, the lack of natural penalty takers was evident, with Manchester City scoring just one of three efforts from 12 yards.
The departures of Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez this summer leaves Erling Haaland as the sole spot-kicker at the club, which may leave some troubles should City find themselves in another shootout this season.
Ultimately, the difficulty of a penalty is as much about the mental aspect than physical, and after this side have just won the treble, it would be foolish to doubt the mentality of the players if they are faced with a penalty shootout this season.
Defeat at Wembley: Is it worth reading in to?
The loss may leave a bitter taste in the mouth of some players, with Manchester City losing their third Community Shield match in a row on Sunday. However, we doubt Pep Guardiola will be too troubled, with focus now diverted to training ahead of Friday’s match at Burnley.
With Arsenal set to try again this season at dethroning City and winning their first league title in 19 years, the victory at Wembley may give them a slight edge mentally, but not one that will massively concern Pep Guardiola or lift Mikel Arteta.
Sunday’s defeat was the commencement of a long season ahead, with Manchester City attempting to do the unprecedented and win a fourth consecutive Premier League title, as well as defending their illustrious treble this season.
The season starts on Friday
Sunday’s result will come as a disappointment for Manchester City, as the club have built a team of serial winners. However, the important proceedings begin against Burnley this Friday, as the club commence their league campaign away at Turf Moor.
Avoiding injuries and gaining some important match fitness will be seen as a victory for Pep Guardiola, despite the result against Arsenal, as Manchester City arrive into the new season with a fully fit squad, barring the injured Nathan Ake.
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