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.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”

Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup

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Manchester City’s quest for the historic quadruple is over after Pep Guardiola‘s 10-man side was shocked by League One side Wigan Athletic in the fifth round of the FA Cup at the DW Stadium on Monday.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Will Grigg scored the game’s only goal, a late winner after the home side had been thoroughly outplayed and out-possessed for 78 minutes. With 45 places currently standing between them in the English football pyramid — and Man City garnering “best of all time” consideration — “upset” doesn’t even begin to describe Monday’s result.

On the other hand, City represent the third Premier League side knocked out of this season’s FA Cup at the hands of Wigan: Bournemouth, in the third round; followed by West Ham United, in the fourth.

City were reduced to 10 men during first-half stoppage time, when Fabian Delph went flying in on Max Power as the two contested a 50-50 ball inside Wigan’s defensive third. Referee Anthony Taylor initially withdrew his yellow card from his pocket, but protests from the aggrieved party appeared to change Taylor’s mind, and Delph was off.

Prior to Deplh’s dismissal, Wigan had done well  enoughto hold their own against the runaway PL leaders. The Latics had a pair of half-chances, most notably through Grigg in the 12th minute, that could have easily gone their way. Much of the play, though, as is to be expected, was controlled by City (first-half possession: 82 percent), though Guardiola’s men were unable to break through before going a man down.

Still, the share of possession remain unchanged throughout the entirety of the second half, as City patiently probed and used possession as their best means of defense… until the 79th minute arrived.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

The ball was played back to Kyle Walker, into space; rather than receiving the ball at first opportunity, Walker let it run on as he prepared to play it back to Claudio Bravo; Grigg saw his opening and pounced quickly; his first touch used his body to shield Walker from the ball, and his second set up the shot; Grigg went for the far post, curling the ball around Bravo and nestling it just inside the post.

Wigan will now host another PL side, Southampton, in the quarterfinals.

Barry Bennell jailed 30 years for abusing young players

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LIVERPOOL, England (AP) A former English youth soccer coach was jailed Monday for 30 years for abusing 12 young footballers after the judge called him the “devil incarnate.”

Barry Bennell, a former coach at Crewe and scout for Manchester City, was convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of 50 child sexual offenses committed between 1979 and 1991.

“Your behavior towards these boys in grooming and seducing them before subjecting them to, in some cases, the most most serious, degrading and humiliating abuse was sheer evil,” Judge Clement Goldstone told the 64-year-old Bennell.

Bennell looked at the floor and nodded as the judge sentenced him. Some members of the public began to applaud as he was sent down, but were stopped by the judge.

Goldstone said Bennell had appeared to his victims as a God.

“In reality, you were the devil incarnate,” the judge added. “You stole their childhoods and their innocence to satisfy your own perversion.”

Goldstone said Bennell’s abuse had destroyed the enthusiasm his victims had for playing football and had led to them suffering problems including suicidal thoughts, alcoholism and depression.

Bennell has already served three jail terms, totaling 15 years, for similar offenses involving 16 other victims in England and the United States.

LIVE, FA Cup: Wigan host Manchester City

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All conquering Manchester City head to third-tier Wigan Athletic on Monday (Kick off, 2:55 p.m. ET) to keep their quest of a legendary quadruple alive.

[ LIVE: Follow Wigan v Man City here

Pep Guardiola‘s men are 16 points clear atop the Premier League summit, while they are virtually through to the last eight of the UEFA Champions League and are in the League Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday.

Can anyone stop them?

Wigan stand in their way with the Latics promotion favorites from the third tier who have already beaten Premier League teams Bournemouth and West Ham United to reach the last 16.

The winner will host Southampton in the quarterfinal for a place in the semifinal at Wembley Stadium, and City’s fan will be feeling a little nervous heading into this game.

Why? They played Wigan in the FA Cup final in 2013 and lost 1-0 after a last-gasp header from Ben Watson sealed one of the greatest upsets of all time to hand the Latics their first-ever major trophy. Wigan also beat City in the FA Cup quarterfinals in 2015, the last time they met in this competition.

Surely Guardiola’s boys won’t be on the end of another upset this time, especially with this starting lineup…

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while we will have analysis and reaction from the final FA Cup fifth round clash right here at Pro Soccer Talk.