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Community Shield preview: How are Man City, Arsenal looking?

Manchester City won the treble last season so will contend Sunday’s Community Shield against last season’s Premier League runners-up Arsenal (10:50 a.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+). But after a summer of upheaval, transfers and tours on foreign soil, how will each side match up? And does it mean anything before the season starts on Aug. 11?

What state are the teams in after the summer?

Man City

Dawson: For the first time in a while there are questions about the Manchester City squad. Mateo Kovacic has come in but Ilkay Gundogan has left for Barcelona and Riyad Mahrez has moved to Saudi Arabia. There are also doubts about the futures of Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo and Kalvin Phillips. Pep Guardiola’s mantra has usually been that he won’t keep players who are unhappy, but he can’t afford a mass exodus this summer. A £77.6 million ($98m) deal for RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol is dragging on, and if it doesn’t get done, you could argue that City will be weaker this season than last.

Arsenal

Olley: Arsenal have attempted to maintain the momentum of last season’s unexpected Premier League title challenge by spending around £200m on three major summer signings — midfielder Declan Rice (£100m), defender Jurrien Timber (£40m) and forward Kai Havertz (£67.5m), all of whom were acquired early enough to take full part in the club’s preseason tour of the United States. Although the Gunners still have work to do in the market — not least in trimming the squad — the club made a point of trying to do their business early in an effort to try to kick on in 2023-24. They impressed in victories over the MLS All-Stars and Barcelona, and although a defeat to Manchester United came in between, there is a sense of optimism that Arsenal can meet heightened expectations in the months ahead.

Key players

Dawson: Rodri was fantastic for City last season and would have been close to winning the top individual awards if striker Erling Haaland hadn’t scored 53 goals in 52 games. The Spain midfielder will get an early test when he comes up against Arsenal, who will be stronger in midfield after the addition of Rice.

Rice earned a big-money move to the Emirates with his performances for West Ham and England, but the next question will be: can he step up to another level now that he’s playing for a better team? The battle between Rodri and Rice at Wembley on Sunday should be fascinating.

Olley: It is hard to get away from Rice given his fee could rise from £100m up to £105m, a record amount for a British footballer. The sheer scale of that investment demands that he has a transformative effect on Arsenal’s midfield and Rob is right to highlight the battle with Rodri. No City player played more Premier League minutes last season than Rodri and Mikel Arteta will likely want Rice to be similarly influential in his Arsenal team; it was interesting to note he operated in a slightly more advanced role with Thomas Partey sitting deep in the friendly against Monaco on Wednesday.

There are also question marks over Havertz following a mixed spell at Chelsea. He will need to start well in the first few weeks to put those doubts behind him.

play

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Guardiola rejects being tagged as the GOAT

Pep Guardiola disagrees on being considered the greatest of all time.

What will the managers do differently to make a statement?

Dawson: Guardiola doesn’t have to change too much after leading City to three wins from three against Arsenal (two in Premier League, one FA Cup) last season. As good as Arteta’s side were, they were outclassed at the Etihad in April when they lost 4-1 to give up any chance of winning the title.

The key issue for Guardiola to fix is how he replaces Gundogan in midfield. As calm as the German was on the ball, he also filled the role of manager on the pitch. He’ll be a big loss, but his departure might mean a chance for Phil Foden to play more games in a central role alongside Kevin De Bruyne.

Olley: It was noticeable during preseason just how much Arsenal’s players rotated positions within Arteta’s 4-3-3 shape. For example, Havertz started as a left-sided No. 8 against Barcelona but also popped up on the left wing and also at centre-forward. Bukayo Saka occupied his usual right-wing berth, but then appeared through the middle, while Leandro Trossard started on the left flank only to play in central midfield at times.

This will likely be a feature of the upcoming campaign, as could Timber drifting into midfield from a full-back position. Arteta experimented with Thomas Partey in this role, nominally starting at right-back, towards the end of last season and it appears Timber has been signed with this in mind.

play

1:38

Rice: Arsenal move was everything I wanted

Declan Rice opens up on Mikel Arteta’s influence on his move from West Ham to Arsenal.

What will we learn about the Premier League season?

Dawson: Probably not a lot. Guardiola usually prepares his teams to finish a season strongly and occasionally it can lead to slow starts. He doesn’t fill preseason with a lot of games — they played three on their tour of Japan and South Korea — and sometimes they’re a little rusty when the campaign kicks off.

City have lost the last two Community Shield games — to Leicester City in 2021 and Liverpool last year — and Guardiola won’t be overly concerned if it happens again. They were beaten 3-1 by Liverpool in this fixture at the King Power Stadium a year ago, and Haaland missed a sitter, but fast forward 10 months and City were treble winners, Liverpool finished fifth and Haaland scored more than 50 goals.

Olley: This fixture has always sat somewhere between a friendly and a competitive match so little can be gleaned from it. Look at last season’s game, when Liverpool beat City: Darwin Nunez scored, Haaland didn’t and many people rushed to speculate whether the Norway international would struggle in English football. That said, there will be a useful psychological boost for Arsenal if they can defeat City. Since winning the 2020 FA Cup final against Guardiola’s side, Arsenal have lost all eight subsequent meetings, including a 4-1 loss at the end of April which effectively signalled the end of their title hopes.

Prediction

Dawson: Arsenal will be better prepared, buoyed by new signings Rice and Timber, and should win narrowly. Arteta will get renewed hope he can beat City to the title next season, but it won’t bother Guardiola, who will remain convinced his team can win it for the sixth time in seven years.

Olley: Arsenal are more settled and probably more motivated for this particular game given how last season finished. Guardiola is a master of looking forlorn about his team’s prospects only for them to deliver time and time again, but Arteta can get an early blow in ahead of the new season with a tight victory.

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