The annual curtain-raiser to the new Premier League season is here again and this time the FA Community Shield 2014 pits champions Manchester City against last season’s FA Cup winners, Arsenal, on Sunday. Money raised from the encounter will be shared amongst registered charities and other good causes across England. Both clubs will also receive $42,000, which they can donate to who or whatever they choose.
The philanthropy stops there as both sides will look to use the match as means to stamp their marker on the new campaign and blood some of their new signings. Although still technically considered a friendly match, the FA Community Shield fixture has yielded some interesting matches over the years, both when it was called the Charity Shield and under its current name.
This year, the FA Community shield features the Premier League’s richest club against arguably the most economical. It also features two teams who were not necessarily expected to win silverware last term. Whilst City were runners-up and champions in the previous two seasons, they looked off the pace last season as Arsenal led until the turn of the year, before the top spot was subsequently passed around by the Manchester club, Chelsea, and Liverpool. Arsenal had not won a trophy in the past eight seasons.
Gunners boss Arsène Wenger has gone à rebours for the second successive season by spending big money on a marquee player. Last season, he signed Mesut Özil from Real Madrid for $71.5 million and this year, he bought Alexis Sánchez from Barcelona for around $50.5 million. While Özil got his first season off to a flyer, his confidence dropped so much Wenger gave him time out to rest. Sánchez will be looking to emulate the start of Özil’s career and carry it on throughout the season, despite being fatigued from World Cup duty with Chile. Full-back Mathieu Debuchy, who joined the Gunners from Newcastle United, is also in contention to make his first competitive start for the north Londoners.
The game has some extra spice in that former Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna will turn out against the Gunners for City, having jettisoned Emirates Stadium for Etihad Stadium during this transfer window. Another big name who could make his City debut is former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, who is on loan to City from their franchise New York City. Wenger raised questions about City signing Lampard from a club it already owns as a means of successfully navigating the financial fair play regulations, but City immediately said they were paying all of Lampard’s wages. Lampard will join up with new MLS side New York City in early 2015.
When Arsenal meet Manchester City in the FA Community Shield 2014 at Wembley on Sunday, it will not only be a “competitive friendly” for two teams competing for the Premier League title, but it will also give fans of the Premier League a first taste of what to expect when the season kicks off just a week later. With Arsenal finally able to spend big after years of paying of the stadium, and City no longer allowed to spend like they used to, it will also be intriguing to see two clubs on more of an even footing than they were only last season.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd