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Vieira seals Arsenal’s Community Shield shootout win after Trossard strikes late

If anyone considered this a glorified kickabout they should have watched Arsenal’s players wheel ecstatically towards their support after Fábio Vieira, finding Stefan Ortega’s top‑right corner, settled the penalty shootout and struck the first blow of 2023‑24.

They would certainly have learned from the beam on Mikel Arteta’s face as he climbed up to the royal box for the Community Shield presentation. There was no chance of anyone wiping away his grin and, if his players needed a psychological reset after the disappointment of their tailspin last season, they received everything they could have asked for here.

This was a brisk, watchable palate cleanser and, as proceedings entered the 11th minute of stoppage time, it appeared City would take the spoils while Arsenal could claim succour from a useful display. Then Leandro Trossard, a substitute, received a short corner and jinked inside before aiming an innocuous-looking shot that struck Manuel Akanji and dramatically changed course. It dribbled past an already committed Ortega, prompting wild celebrations from Arteta and giving Arsenal their chance to complete the turnaround.

Arteta had made clear in the buildup that he was not in the mood to shadow box. Arsenal had fallen short in nine successive meetings with City and the most recent two, which could be framed as having lost them the title, stung well beyond May. A side that included all three of his major summer signings was not always as smooth as he might like but the intensity, along with the fact City were denied clear openings for long periods, bodes well before Nottingham Forest’s visit to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

One of the widest smiles was sported by Aaron Ramsdale, who dived right to save a poor spot‑kick from Rodri and offer Vieira his platform to make sure. Ramsdale will be in for high-level, expensive competition if Arsenal complete a deal with Brentford for David Raya in the coming days and it can have done no harm to remind Arteta of his ability to deliver. His most spectacular contributions were, in fact, superb stops from Phil Foden and Rodri shortly after Cole Palmer had opened the scoring; if either effort had passed him, Arsenal would have been picking around for positives rather than bouncing across the Wembley pitch.

In fairness there would have been plenty from which to take heart had Trossard’s lucky break not materialised. For 25 minutes Arsenal struggled to get on the ball but they were rarely exposed, a deflected strike from Rodri the best City’s territory and possession could muster. Once they began nibbling at Akanji, sometimes a clunky presence at left‑back, they began to make inroads. When Akanji slept on a clever Ben White run inside him, Kai Havertz skilfully tamed the resulting centre but saw Ortega save. Then Bukayo Saka scorched a similar trail and, from a fine position at the near post, Havertz allowed the keeper to block again.

Havertz had been chosen, ahead of Eddie Nketiah, to replace the injured Gabriel Jesus; he was signed primarily as an attacking midfielder but his versatility was also attractive. Arteta observed that his performance had deserved a goal: he was probably not wrong, although this viewing of Havertz as a No 9 contained the mixture of balletic deftness and inefficient finishing that has form for causing bafflement.

Half-time proved the cue for City to reassert some control, Ramsdale parrying a John Stones header, but Arsenal thought they could claim a measure of success when the barely visible Erling Haaland was replaced by Palmer in the 64th minute. More pertinent to the game’s flow, though, was that Kevin De Bruyne and Foden were also on the pitch now; City finally began to slice their way through the thirds, Palmer shooting just over via a deflection, and their goal had been signalled.

Half of Europe would like to sign Palmer, a hero of England Under‑21s’ victorious summer, on loan but Guardiola has not ruled out keeping him on for the season. Any more finishes like the left-footed curler that arced over Ramsdale, having been found by De Bruyne’s header on the right, and the manager’s mind may be made up for him.

Arteta, judging by the showing of what, from those available, is clearly his first-choice side will not have too many tough decisions to make before the weekend. He may need to moderate his self-expression given the Football Association has imposed new rules around touchline conduct; it took only 17 minutes for Stuart Attwell to book him after he charged from his technical area to demand a yellow card for Rodri. “I cannot change my behaviour in three days,” he said, although that was followed by a semi-convincing promise to adapt.

Arsenal hope they have shape‑shifted sufficiently to give City a season-long run for their money. Arteta noted on Friday that both momentum and, at times, luck had deserted them at last season’s business end. When De Bruyne’s penalty struck the bar, giving them an advantage that Ramsdale’s intervention built on, it underlined the impression that both are on their side now.

credit: theguardian

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