Per Mertesacker

Majestic Arsenal Batter Below-Par City

The Community Shield saw FA cup holders Arsenal run out 3-0 winners over Premier League champions Manchester City at Wembley.

Santi Cazorla fired Arsenal in front with an expertly executed finish whilst Aaron Ramsey smashed home a second just before half time.

Olivier Giroud completed the rout with a stunning long-range strike over Willy Caballero.

It was a very impressive team display from the North London side who looked solid at the back, dangerous going forward and were rarely troubled by their Premier League rivals.

City, however, offered an extremely flat performance and Manuel Pellegrini made no effort to hide his frustration on the touchline.

Calum Chambers, Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy all made their competitive debuts for Arsenal whilst Fernando and Caballero made their first starts for City.

City were missing some key players such as Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta so Pellegrini won’t be too concerned by how easily his side were dismantled.

Arsenal were also without World Cup winners Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil and will be delighted to have performed so ably without them.

The result should give them a big boost for their match against Crystal palace next weekend but City will need to recover confidence before their opener against Newcastle.

Arsenal started the brighter and Mathieu Debuchy was particularly impressive down the right hand side in the opening exchanges.

Samir Nasri, the former Arsenal player, was verbally abused every time he touched the ball by Arsenal fans.

He almost silenced their jeers in the 13th minute but Calum Chambers was quick to block his goal-bound effort.

It was Arsenal, however, who deservedly took the lead in the 22nd minute through Santi Cazorla.

The Spaniard evaded Gael Clichy on the edge of the City area before firing a low left footed strike into the corner of Caballero’s goal.

Yaya Sanogo, who scored four goals in a pre-season friendly against Benfica, had a chance to score his first competitive goal for Arsenal but dragged his shot wide.

It was Arsenal who continued to impress and Clichy deflected a long-range Cazorla shot for a corner.

Sanogo had another chance from the resulting corner but his header landed comfortably in Caballero’s arms.

City almost equalised five minutes before half time after Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic combined well during a quick break, but a swarm of Arsenal defenders managed to block.

Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey scored moments later, however, to double their advantage. Sanogo held up the ball well in the box and fed Ramsey who smashed the ball past Caballero.

Alexis Sanchez had an opportunity to make it three at the end of the first half but Caballero was quickly out of his area to slide at Alexis’ feet and deny him.

David Silva, Nacho Monreal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Giroud were introduced at half time for Nasri, Alexis, Laurent Koscielny and Sanogo.

Fernando was booked early in the second half for pulling Jack Wilshire to the ground.

Jovetic came agonisingly close moments later after rising over Debuchy to thump a header against the post.

City had begun the second half much brighter than the first and Wojciech Szczesny was finally called into action to deny Jovetic, who fired a stinging shot towards the keeper’s right hand post.

James Milner and Bruno Zuculini were then introduced by Pellegrini to replace Edin Dzeko and Yaya Toure.

Giroud scored an absolute screamer with his left foot from outside the area and bent it over Caballero to give Arsenal a three-goal advantage.

Jovetic, who was City’s most creative attacking force, attempted an elaborate overhead kick but it flew comfortably over the bar.

Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky were then called upon by Wenger to replace Wilshire and Cazorla.

Micah Richards came on for Aleksandar Kolarov as substitutions began to disrupt the flow of the game.

Jesus Navas was also withdrawn for Scott Sinclair and Aaron Ramsey replaced by Joel Campbell; Arsene Wenger’s final substitution.

Dedryck Boyata had a great opportunity to grab a consolation for City but his header from a corner went wide.

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Premier League Preview: Arsenal

Devastatingly, the World Cup is over. But fear not. There is only a month to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. We will move alphabetically and begin with Arsenal.

Arsenal enjoyed their best season in 9 years last term, finishing fourth and achieving glory in the FA cup. They appear adamant to build upon their success and are making some decent inroads in adding to their already capable squad. Arsenal fans will be eager for the new season to start as soon as possible and will be confident of pushing the likes of Man City and Chelsea all the way.

The Manager
Arsene Wenger is an experienced Premier League customer and the longest serving boss in the league. His every move has been scrutinized over the past 9 years as they failed to deliver any silverware and he appeared to be too ponderous in the transfer market. However, after delivering big-money signing Mesut Ozil and victory in the FA cup, every Arsenal fan is behind him and they’re beginning to believe that he can challenge once more for Premier league glory.

Wenger is the longest-serving manager in the Premier League

Wenger is the longest serving manager in the Premier League

Biggest Signing
Arsenal have already pulled off a major coup in the transfer market and one that is unlikely to be topped. Alexis Sanchez has arrived from Barcelona and is a proven world-class performer. The signing has given the fans a similar buzz to when Mesut Özil arrived last summer and will give fresh belief to those fans who dream of Arsenal being the best side in England once more. Sanchez is not only a top player but he is also versatile. He can play anywhere across the front three, offering competition for the likes of Walcott and Podolski, and even an alternative option to Olivier Giroud.

Alexis Sanchez is a great signing for Arsenal

Alexis Sanchez is a great signing for Arsenal

Who is tipped to join them?
As with every transfer window, Arsenal are linked with a host of top-quality footballers that will have every supporter drooling with excitement. Mario Balotelli has been mooted as a new striking option, which would be particularly pleasing for Arsenal supporters as there are question marks over Olivier Giroud’s abilities to be a title-defining centre forward. Juan Cuadrado is also being linked with a move after an impressive World Cup and again could be a fresh and exciting option to Arsenal’s attack. Mathieu Debuchy has been selected to replace the departing Bacary Sagna at right-back and should sign within the next few days.

Debuchy is widely expected to join Arsenal in the coming days

Debuchy is widely expected to join Arsenal

Who should they sign?
I have always doubted Mikel Arteta’s ability to be a title-winning centre midfielder and they should look to replace him this transfer window. Sami Khedira has stalled on a new contract in Madrid and is reportedly keen on a move to the Premier League. Linking up with German compatriots Mesut Özil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski could be an intriguing proposition. Arsenal would be signing a proven centre-midfielder who has just won the Champions League and the World Cup so Wenger should make his signing a priority.

Khedira would prove a fantastic piece of business should Wenger lure him away from the Santiago Bernabeu

Khedira would prove a fantastic piece of business should Wenger lure him away from the Santiago Bernabeu

Key Player
Aaron Ramsey. Sanchez and Özil may be the global superstars of this Arsenal side but it is the Welshman who makes them tick. He was in scintillating form at the beginning of the season until unfortunately succumbing to injury and they really missed him. He offers intelligent deep runs from midfield that no other Arsenal player has in their locker and is a deadly finisher. If he remains fit, he could help Arsenal go all the way.

Arsenal fans will be hopeful that star man Aaron Ramsey can stay fit in the upcoming campaign

Arsenal fans will be hopeful that star man Aaron Ramsey can stay fit in the upcoming campaign

Prediction
Arsenal performed capably last season and I expect them to improve on their performance this time around. They look like they will keep hold of all their top performers and are adding genuine quality to the squad so should keep improving. They will offer a title challenge but are just short of usurping Man City and Chelsea at the top of the pile. If they have a title challenge and can bring home more silverware in one of the cup competitions then that would be viewed as a good season for them. Expect Arsenal to finish 3rd.

Quarter-finals Preview: Part 1

After a set of tense fixtures in the second round, every side that won their group in the first round has reached the quarter-finals. Some tasty matches have been served up and in this article we analyse each contest and offer our predictions for the outcome of Friday’s matches.

France vs Germany: Friday 5pm

This is an all-European encounter between two sides that were arguably the most impressive teams during the group stages; however, both stumbled through their last-16 matches. Germany needed extra time to defeat little-fancied Algeria and France were less than impressive against the plucky Nigerians, scoring twice late on to secure their passage to the next round. It is possible that both sides were complacent going into their last matches and hopefully they have both got the kick-up the backside needed to reach their best levels once more. If they do return to the form they displayed in the group stages then we could be set for a brilliant match. One thing that will improve the French performance will be replacing the lumbering Giroud with Griezmann and moving Benzema back to the centre. Benzema looked lost on the wings and failed to link up with Giroud effectively during the match whereas Griezmann and Benzema seem to have a strong understanding that makes the French attack infinitely more potent. In addition to this, Mertesacker and Hummels are two defenders who are strong in the air but not the quickest across the turf so the mobility of Valbuena and Griezmann will be far more dangerous than Giroud’s hold up play. Deschamps should have realised this and it would be a surprise if that change were not implemented.

Antoine Griezmann should start against the Germans.

Antoine Griezmann should start against the Germans

Whilst France have been impressive, I think the Germans will come out on top. They are a more experienced side when it comes to deep progression in international competitions and just have a knack of raising their game when it really matters. It will be close and could require extra time once more but expect the Germans to be lining up in the semi-finals.
Prediction: France 2-3 Germany

Brazil vs Colombia: Friday 9pm

Colombia have been the form side of the competition (https://originalfooty.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/can-colombia-win-the-world-cup/) and were the only side to win their last-16 match convincingly. Question marks remain, however, as they are yet to face real top quality opposition. Cue Brazil. They were one of the favourites of the tournament who have progressed unspectacularly, requiring penalties to beat Chile, but are still the toughest opponents to face the Colombians so far. People have spoken at length at how impressive the Colombian defence has been so far but they have not faced a forward at the peak of their powers in the way that Neymar is and he will no doubt pose a whole new test of their capabilities. Despite the Colombians not meeting top class opposition thus far, they will head in to the game with great confidence and they have reason to do so. First, Brazil have been giving away silly goals and, at times, lose concentration at the back. Second, James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado are in a rich vein of form and will be confident of capitalising on any sniff of an opportunity that the Brazilians allow them. Finally, there is a sense of togetherness and camaraderie amongst the side that will spur them on to fight until the last second to achieve victory.

James Rodriguez is the top scorer in Brazil thus far

James Rodriguez is the top scorer in Brazil thus far

Having said this, and whilst expecting a magnificent competition, I still fancy Brazil to edge out the Colombians. Brazil may have scraped their way through the World Cup so far but they possess so much individual quality in their ranks that I think a moment of magic from a player such as Neymar, Oscar, Hulk or even Dani Alves will grab a last-gasp victory and propel them through to the semi-finals.
Prediction: Brazil 2-1 Colombia