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Arsenal fans expect: Gunners need to show Community Shield spirit

For Arsenal, 15/8 to be top London club in the upcoming season, the Community Shield represents more than just a chance to win a minor trophy. It is the opportunity to lay down an early marker for their claim to current Premier League holders Manchester City’s throne, and kick-off the season in style.

At least that is what Gunners fans must be hoping, as Arsene Wenger attempts to add further silverware to the Emirates’ cabinet. Arsenal, after all, arrive as last term’s FA Cup winners, but before overcoming underdogs Hull City at Wembley they had suffered an astounding trophy drought of nine years.

Wenger has not delivered the Premier League title since 2003/4, while Community Shield competitors City have lifted it twice in the last three campaigns, making it essential that the Gunners continue to build on their momentum with a morale-boosting win.

Arsenal’s record in encounters with other Premier League giants last term, including thrashings from Chelsea, City and Liverpool, is damning, but fans will be expecting their new signings to make a difference. To kick-off the new campaign with a victory against City, who they have failed to beat in their last four attempts, would be a real signal of intent.

For the first time in many a season, the Gunners are dominating headlines with blockbuster bids for international stars, following up last summer’s club record smashing swoop for Mesut Ozil with the capture of sensational World Cup star Alexis Sanchez.

While they are in the familiar position of preparing to lose their skipper, for the third time in four campaigns, the context is entirely different. In stark contrast to the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, captain Thomas Vermaelen is preparing for an Emirates exit after falling behind in the pecking order, with Arsenal seemingly having the final decision on his destination.

They now take on City having re-emerged as a major force in the transfer window, but still need to prove they can go toe-to-toe with top opposition on the pitch, and lose the unflattering tag of ‘big game bottlers’.

Competitive debuts will likely dominate this Community Shield clash, but although neutral eyes will be fixed on the tantalising first outing of the World Cup’s standout star; vanishing spray, Arsenal fans will be keen to see how scintillating Sanchez fares.

How Arsenal line up in offence will be one of the main points of intrigue in this encounter, with the biggest question mark remaining over where the former Barcelona winger will be deployed.

Having spent most of his Nou Camp career out wide, Sanchez, who recently impressed for Chile in a more central role, may deputise as a false nine in a fluid formation, if frontman Olivier Giroud is not fit enough to start.

Wenger recently hinted at this option, commenting: “He is a striker and he’s a good finisher.”

“I like the fact he can play left, right, up front and that’s why I went for him…At the moment I want to see him in both positions.”

With the likely absence of injured wingmen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, Sanchez could also find himself out wide, supporting one of the Gunners’ promising young attacking talents. Costa Rica World Cup hero Joel Campbell and Yaya Sanogo have dazzled during pre-season, and Wenger may not hesitate to throw them into the fray.

Defensive summer signings Mathieu Debuchy and Callum Chambers may battle it out for the right back spot, with the Frenchman likely to come out on top, as Chambers featured as a makeshift centre back in Arsenal’s last outing against Monaco.

The potential weak spot for rivals City to exploit will be central midfield, with Wilshere and Ramsey providing plenty of skill but little grit, as media outlets continue to link the Gunners with a defensive midfielder to provide more steel to their soft centre.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team will not have this problem, and should look to dominate following the addition of Brazilian midfield anchor Fernando. There are unlikely to be debut’s for loan singing Frank Lampard or ex-Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna, so Gunners fans will have to wait to vent their ire at the Frenchman.

Sky Blues boss Pellegrini confirmed that: “All the players that arrive this Monday, Demichelis. Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Sagna, Fernandinho, Lampard and Aguero, they have a special pre-season this week and next week.”

Consequently, the absence of some of Pellegrini’s top stars should provide Arsenal with their best chance to start this upcoming season in winning form. The Gunners are 5/4 to lift the Shield and start as they mean to go on by claiming City’s scalp.