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The Gunners have an opportunity to lay down a marker ahead of the big kick-off.
Last season was almost perfect for Manchester City. Of the four major trophies available to clubs in England’s top flight, Pep Guardiola’s side claimed three of them. City missed out on the EFL Cup, but the Premier League, the Champions League, and the FA Cup ended up in the Etihad Stadium cabinet.
How can they top that in the upcoming 2023/24 campaign? Retaining all three pieces of silverware and adding the EFL Cup would make for an unprecedented quadruple, but it is hard to see even Guardiola’s team pulling off what would be a truly astonishing feat.
Perhaps surprisingly given their achievements last time out, the mood around the club ahead of the new season is not one of unconstrained optimism. That is in part because of the realization that it is often hard to follow up on a historic campaign.
For instance, Manchester United became the first English club to win the treble in 1998/99. They claimed the Premier League title again a year later, but were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and controversially pulled out of the FA Cup.
Secondly, City’s squad right now is probably weaker than the one which ended last season. Mateo Kovacic has been lured from Chelsea but the English champions have lost Riyad Mahrez, an excellent wide player, and their erstwhile club captain Ilkay Gundogan.
Yet despite all that, City are justifiably the clear favorites to win the Premier League title with the best online sportsbooks.
In fact, they remain the team to beat not only in England but also in the whole of Europe. Their squad is packed full of talent and Guardiola is widely regarded as the best head coach on the planet. Write City off at your peril.
Arsenal punched well above their weight last season. The consensus before a ball had been kicked was that the Gunners would miss out on the top four, as they had done in dramatic circumstances in 2021/22.
Instead, the North London outfit came close to winning their first title since 2004. Mikel Arteta’s men led the way for much of the campaign, only to fall away late on after being chased down by this relentless Manchester City side. Still, Arsenal could be proud of their efforts.
Not that Arteta is satisfied. An ambitious manager, the Spaniard wants his team to go one better in 2023/24. There is quiet confidence around the Emirates Stadium at present, based not only on the team’s performance last term but the club’s subsequent work in the summer transfer market.
Arsenal got the majority of their business done early, welcoming Jurrien Timber, Declan Rice, and Kai Havertz to the ranks long before the beginning of the Premier League campaign. Rice in particular is an excellent addition, and not just because City wanted the England international.
There may well be further movement at the Emirates between now and the end of the transfer window, but Arsenal look more ready for the new season than many of their Premier League rivals who are still waiting to bring in more players.
It will not be easy, though. City are the reigning kings of Europe, while Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur should be stronger under new management, Liverpool look set to bounce back after the disappointment of last season, and Manchester United will be keen to kick on under Erik Ten Hag.
To its critics, the Community Shield is a glorified friendly. To its supporters, it is a chance to win a trophy and deserves to be taken seriously.
No matter which group you belong to, members of both tend to agree that it is dangerous to read too much into the outcome of the first match of the new season.
A win for either team would tell us little about their chances in the Premier League title race. Remember, Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-1 this time last year, then went on to have a much worse season than them.
City are the favorites but the smart money is on Arsenal. Granted, they lost all three head-to-head clashes last term (the teams also met in the FA Cup) but the Gunners are in good shape and have fewer questions to answer than City, whose transfer business has been a little underwhelming to date.
Three of the last five editions of this fixture have gone to extra time, so it would not be a huge surprise if the match was still not settled after 90 minutes. Tip Arsenal to win the trophy, whether that is after regulation time, extra time, or on penalties.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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