Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal’s Community Shield victory against Manchester City proves they can go toe to toe with the treble winners in the Premier League title race.
Arteta’s side issued a significant statement of intent ahead of the new season by fighting back to beat City 4-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Wembley on Sunday.
Cole Palmer’s superb curler had given City a 77th-minute lead, but Arsenal refused to surrender and Leandro Trossard equalised with a deflected effort 11 minutes into stoppage-time.
It was the kind of lucky break that deserted Arsenal when they blew an eight-point lead in the title battle last season, allowing City to extend their Premier League reign with a fifth crown in six seasons.
The Gunners took full advantage of Trossard’s fortuitous leveller, converting all four of their penalties in the shoot-out while Kevin De Bruyne hit the bar and Rodri’s effort was saved by Aaron Ramsdale.
Fabio Vieira’s winning penalty sparkled wild celebrations from Arteta and his players in a cathartic moment after their title misery.
With the new Premier League season starting on Friday, Arteta is convinced his side’s Wembley escape act will bode well.
“It’s great if the players are convinced they can beat every team. I think we showed a real determination and fight to win the game,” Arteta said.
“We deserved to win against a team that has played in so many finals.
“It doesn’t get much better than winning a trophy at Wembley against the best team in the world.”
Offering further encouragement for Arteta were solid debuts from close-season signings Declan Rice and Jurrien Timber in central midfield and left-back respectively.
Kai Havertz, Arsenal’s other major recruit since last season, was less impressive, missing two golden opportunities in a continuation of the erratic form that convinced Chelsea to sell him.
Arteta defended Havertz, saying: “Havertz was superb, the way he pressed, he was in great positions to score. I was very pleased with him.”
‘We can do better’ –
The Arsenal manager also stuck up for the new time-wasting rules that led to eight minutes of stoppage-time, plus an additional five minutes on top of that due to injuries in the extra period.
“We are going to have to be prepared to play 100 minutes because it is going to happen every week. It’s good because it was going too far the other way,” he said.
As the victim of the stoppage-time increase on this occasion, it was no surprise City boss Pep Guardiola disagreed.
“It’s a good question for the international board because they don’t consult with managers and players. Now the games will be 100 minutes,” he said.
“Nothing happened today and there was eight minutes. If the score is 4-3, you put 45 seconds on for seven goals, tomorrow morning I am still here playing!”
Rarely has the Community Shield winner gone on to clinch the Premier League in recent seasons, so Arteta was quick to urge his players not to rest on their laurels ahead of Saturday’s season opener against Nottingham Forest.
“You win a trophy today, tomorrow you have to train and prepare the Forest game, which will be a very different game to this. It lifts the spirit but that’s it,” he said.
After becoming only the second English club to win the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup in a single season, City must show they still have a desire for success.
Although Arsenal looked the more hungry side for long periods at Wembley, Guardiola had no complaints about City’s subdued performance.
“I’m surprised how good we behaved. We faced an extraordinary team. The thing was to get minutes to the players and get ready for Burnley on Friday,” he said.
“We finished an incredibly stressful season. I know how difficult this can be. We can do better, that is the target.”
Keen to ensure the loss was kept in perspective, Guardiola reminded his audience that defeats in the previous two Community Shields had been followed by City titles.
“We lost three in a row. Do you know why? Because we won the Premier League to be here!” he said.
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