Community Shield preview: Arsenal seeks 13th shield vs Manchester City

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Arsenal will be looking for its first Community Shield since 2004 when it faces Manchester City in Sunday’s match at Wembley, as England will award its first domestic honor of the new season.

The match, which pits the winners of the FA Cup and Premier League, has been a Manchester-heavy affair in recent years, with either City or United winning the title since 2010.

But Arsenal will look to win its 13th shield, compared to a City club looking for its fifth, and Gunners manager Arsene Wenger knows he needs better defense against City if he wants to get the season started with that winning feeling.

[ MORE: Rodwell issues Man City warning to young, English players ]

“I was concerned [by Arsenal’s record against the top four],” Wenger told Arsenal.com. “I was concerned and shocked by the number of goals that we conceded. Of course we were Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde defensively. We had 18 clean sheets but when we did not keep a clean sheet. We let them score.”

It will be the first time in nearly 300 club appearances that Bacary Sagna will be wearing something other than an Arsenal shirt after signing with City in the offseason. Wenger inferred that City cheated a bit to land the Frenchman, who is not expected to be fit to play on Sunday:

“I made him a proposal to stay and he chose Man City. Did he choose that a long time ago? Maybe. It looks like to me it was agreed a long time ago. There is always an element of disappointment because he came here as an unknown and he became a French international.”

Wenger praised Sagna for his professionalism on the pitch, saying he was ‘ready to die’ on the field during games.

source: Getty ImagesWhat they’re saying

Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta (right) on more Wembley happiness after lifting the FA Cup three months ago: “It does [feel like a long time ago] but it was a really nice feeling and a big relief. All the Arsenal fans deserved that day because they have been waiting for such a long time and the support they have been giving to the team and the club has been tremendous.”

City’s Yaya Youre on playing for the Shield: “It’s a really interesting way to start the season – the Community Shield against a top team like Arsenal at Wembley and, even though we have only just started to train together as a full squad, we will be ready. All of the lads have been coming back at different times because of the World Cup, so it is going to be very tough for us to hit our top form straight away but we are professional and I believe that we will – starting on Sunday.”

 

Verdict

Early season soccer is usually sloppy, but there should be plenty of energy between two teams who can play free-flowing football. Arsenal will have a load of new boys looking to impress, but even if Sagna doesn’t go the other ex-Arsenal players (Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri) will be looking to be thorns in the side of their former club.

Man City will have a bit of unfamiliarity to contend with as well, as Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Martin Demichelis join Sagna as backs who are unlikely to feature on Sunday. Look for goals from both sides, and here’s a very shaky prediction of a 3-2 win for City.

Pulisic: Dortmund can win the league

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Christian Pulisic isn’t short on confidence these days.

The rising star for the U.S. Men’s National Team is currently in preseason training with Borussia Dortmund, and he believes his side can push Bayern Munich for the title. Bayern has won five-straight league titles, but the last team other than Munich to win was Dortmund itself in 2012.

“We’ve got a big chance to win the league this coming season,” Pulisic said, via German publication Kicker.

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Pulisic has been firing on all cylinders so far in preseason. During Dortmund’s tour of China, Pulisic had three assists in a 3-1 win over AC Milan, and he also started and went the full 90 against Bochum on July 22 back in Germany.

The 18-year-old is coming off a breakout season for the Black and Yellows, scoring five goals with 13 assists over 43 games between the Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Champions League.

“Last season was a good step in my development,” Pulisic said, noting he wants to be “more dangerous” in the attack. “I want to build on that.”

Of course, Pulisic followed the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Gold Cup, taking the title for the sixth time. In less than a year’s time, Pulisic will likely be on the field, starting for the U.S. at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the hopes and dreams of many Americans on his shoulders.

“(It was) a good victory,” Pulisic said of the final.

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Bale’s agent laughs off speculation

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It appears Gareth Bale has no plans of following Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez out of Real Madrid this summer.

“It’s a ridiculous, stupid story,” Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett told the BBC, following reports that Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane wouldn’t promise Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo that they’d staying with the club this summer.

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Of course, these prompted counter reports that Manchester United could take advantage of possible instability at the Santiago Bernabeu and swoop in for Bale, but it seems that Bale is not for sale.

Bale played just 27 times for Real Madrid last season in all competitions, scoring nine goals with three assists while dealing with multiple injuries. His entire career at Real Madrid in fact has been plagued by injury, but ahead of a World Cup year with Wales still in contention for a spot in Russia, Bale will be extra motivated to stay fit this season.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the world:

(more…)

Neymar storms off after training dustup with teammate

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Neymar just won’t stay out of the headlines.

As his long-rumored “will he, won’t he go” transfer saga between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona continues, Neymar stormed out of training on Thursday after getting into a tussle with teammate Nelson Semedo.

A video from the Daily Mail shows Neymar pushing Semedo before walking off and removing his training bib.

Neymar has reportedly agreed to personal terms with PSG over a move to France, but PSG have yet to come up with the nearly $260 million it would cost to trigger Neymar’s release clause. The news of Neymar possibly leaving Barcelona came as a shock, as he’s been content since joining the club to play slightly in the shadow of teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

If this fight is any indication, Neymar’s head could be turned and should PSG trigger the release clause, Neymar could be heading to Paris once Barcelona returns this weekend from its American sojourn.

In spite of all the transfer speculation, Neymar has dazzled for Barcelona on its tour of the U.S., scoring three goals in two games and delighting the thousands in attendance.

Australian women beat US 1-0 in Tournament of Nations

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SEATTLE (AP) Tameka Butt scored in the 67th minute and Australia beat the United States for the first time in the 28-game series, 1-0 in the Tournament of Nations on Thursday night.

The Matildas also snapped the Americans’ four-game winning streak.

Just moments after Butt’s goal got past goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, Carli Lloyd blasted a cross from Megan Rapinoe at Australia goalkeeper Lydia Williams, who made a fantastic save. Lloyd had another chance that sailed just over the net.

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Japan and Brazil played to a 1-1 draw in the tournament’s opening game in the afternoon at CenturyLink Field.

Each of the four teams in the tournament is in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings. The top-ranked United States went into the game with a 25-0-2 record over the seventh-ranked Matildas.

Rapinoe, who plays for the NWSL’s Seattle Reign, had a good chance early on in the game but the Americans were unable to break through. Rapinoe has 12 goals to lead the NWSL in scoring this season.

The Matildas have been on the rise of the past several years, with quarterfinal appearances in both the 2015 World Cup and the Olympics last year.

Following the stop in Seattle, the tournament shifts to San Diego on Sunday before wrapping up in Carson, California, on Aug. 3.

U.S. Soccer is looking to host a Tournament of Nations each summer that there isn’t World Cup or Olympic competition.