Arsenal broke their embarrassing run of nine years without a trophy, capturing the FA Cup in May and look set for an even better season when it kicks off with the Community Shield this weekend.
The Gunners face last season’s Premier League champions Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday,
Unlike many Community Shield affairs, this one should be lively. There were 11 goals in their two Premiership clashes last term so it’s a mouth-watering game to herald in the 2014-15 campaign.
Neither team won their three trophies easily.
Arsenal’s FA Cup victory in a thrilling final against Hull City was silverware that Gooners craved after all the barren years so they are relishing another Wembley trip.
Manchester City were also pushed to the wire – by Liverpool – but were worthy Premier League champions on the last day of the season, a fantastic achievement for Manuel Pellegrini in his debut season in English football.
City also captured the League Cup and scored more than 100 Premier League goals.
Arsenal expect new names Alexis Sanchez and Joel Campbell to generate excitement and score vital goals in the coming season but Yaya Sanogo, a 21-year-old Frenchman lured to North London from Auxerre a year ago, has shown immense pre-season promise.
Sanogo was mesmerizing in the Emirates Cup on Saturday, plundering four goals in the 5-1 destruction of Benfica. The Portuguese champions had not replaced big names like Lazar Markovic to Liverpool, Argentina World Cup defender Ezequeil Garay to Zenit St. Petersburg and goalkeeper Jan Oblak to Atletico Madrid. Nevertheless, the Londoners looked very classy.
A French Under-21 international, Sanogo must have desperately wanted to impress manager Arsene Wenger, who had the luxury of having Sanchez, Jack Wilshire and Santi Carzola waiting on the substitutes bench for late introductions.
There was no chance of action at all for the compatriot whose place Sanogo most threatens, Olivier Giroud.
After his side’s inept defensive performance a week earlier in New Jersey against Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls, Wenger again kept Laurent Koscielny and his newly acquired French international teammate, Mathieu Debuchy, on the bench.
At least Wenger gave a run out to $22 million midweek signing from Southampton, Calum Chambers.
Wenger insists that the 19-year-old right back will mature into a central defender with the same influence as Tony Adams in years to come. A great judge of potential, Wenger may have a point.
Campbell too wanted to impress to show his latest stay at the Emirates will not be fleeting, having been loaned out to three different clubs over the past three years.
Rumors persist that AC Milan and Galatasaray want to accommodate the Costa Rica winger, who scored two goals at the World Cup, helping them to reach the quarterfinals to boot.
Campbell spent last season on loan in Greece with Olympiacos and his form against Benfica suggests enough has been gleaned on the road to justify keeping him in north London for the time being.
Hector Bellerin, a 19-year-old right back with good touch and plenty of pace, impressed both defensively and with a succession of forward bursts.
A Bellerin run ended with him passing to Aaron Ramsey, who beat the challenge of two Benfica defenders before crossing for Sanogo to back-heel his first goal from close in. It was pretty much a procession after that with Sanogo leading the way.
Sanogo scoring four in a match after failing to find the net at all last season looks pretty good as omens go and the margin of Arsenal’s win was just reward for a vibrant attacking performance in which Ramsey sparkled and Campbell announced his return from loan with a deft strike.
Wenger played down the result after, suggesting that Benfica may have been below par. Nevertheless, it was a performance that bristled with panache and an indication that Arsenal are more likely to be challenging for the title from next week rather than merely struggling to secure a Champions League spot.
A summer spending spree of more than $83 million to date shows that the age of austerity is over and this display reinforces the hope that the club is entering a more successful era.
By the time Sánchez was introduced the match had lost all intensity, Sanogo and Campbell having upstaged him as Arsenal blew away a Benfica side that begun brightly.
Wenger has not finished spending and has the rest of August to complete purchasing. He hinted at a central-defensive signing.
The only major signing Arsenal made last summer was Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil for a club record fee of $58 million. Ozil made a big difference and although he did not have a fabulous World Cup, returns to club duty with a winner’s medal.
Wenger also admitted Thomas Vermaelen may leave the Emirates. Arsenal’s club captain is linked with moving to Manchester United, where he would link up with his former manager at Ajax, Louis van Gaal.
Wenger dismissed Steven Gerrard’s claims that Luis Suarez was too good to move to Arsenal last year.
The Gunners wanted to land the Liverpool forward 12 months ago but the attempt was unsuccessful and the Uruguay international went on to start for a Liverpool side fighting for the title.
Suarez, currently banned from all football for four months after biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during a World Cup group game, is now at Barcelona – with Gerrard admitting he had told the 27-year-old to stay put last year.
“You’re never too good for Arsenal and Steven Gerrard knows that,” said Wenger. “But I can understand completely that he asked him to stay because he wanted Suárez to play with him and have a chance to win the Premier League. But it didn’t happen and, anyway, Suarez left.”
There were 11 goals in their two Premiership clashes last term so it’s a mouth-watering game to herald in the 2014-15 campaign.