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.

Day Four: All the action from the U20 World Cup

Hong Hae-in/Yonhap via AP
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South Korea and Venezuela clinched berths in the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday, while Germany and Argentina have surprising work to do after two matches in South Korea.

[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]

South Korea 2-1 Argentina

Barcelona B man Lee Seung-woo helped South Korea take a 2-0 lead, then hold on for the win and group lead over England.

England 1-1 Guinea

Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori scored a wild long range own goal to cost England the three points, but the Blues are still well-positioned to advance out of the group stage. Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook scored for England, and it was a beaut.

Venezuela 7-0 Vanuatu

Seven different Venezuelans have scored through a pair of shutout wins, with Caracas’ Sergio Cordova the only one to bag a pair.

Mexico 0-0 Germany

Germany has just one point through two matches, thanks largely to Pachuca’s Abraham Romero’s seven saves. Mexico was outshot 12-6.

Porto, Watford, Hull? Marco Silva in demand

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Marco Silva is one of the hottest properties in management, months after eliciting cries of “Who?” following his appointment at Hull City.

While those cries may have been a tiny bit myopic given his time at Sporting CP and Olympiacos, the 39-year-old is now visible to the world despite Hull’s relegation.

[ MORE: Real Madrid nabs $50m teen ]

Silva will be back in England to meet with Hull on Wednesday, but a clause in his contract that said he could leave if the club was relegated gives the Tigers very little hope.

Rumors have him wanted at Watford, and he’s also been linked with a number of other jobs including Southampton (should the club part ways with Claude Puel).

However, the former right back is also reportedly a target of one of the biggest clubs in his home country: Champions League side Porto.

UEFA Europa League Final preview: Manchester United vs. Ajax

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Jose Mourinho’s big European gamble takes center stage on Wednesday in Sweden, when Manchester United attempts to topple young Ajax in the UEFA Europa League Final.

United’s chances for UEFA Champions League qualification, a magnificent opportunity, are overshadowed by the pall cast over Manchester by sinister terrorist attacks at a pop concert that killed and injured many on Monday night.

Alas, there’s soccer to be played, and Mourinho is looking to make it a trio of shiny items in his first year on the job. United beat Leicester City for the Community Shield, then topped Southampton in the EFL Cup Final en route to Sweden.

United’s well-documented dearth of healthy defenders will march out one more time on Wednesday, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones tasked with manning the center of the back line. Expect Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out wide.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Despite the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s attack is going to give Ajax fits. Marcus Rashford has been next level for most of the second half of the season, and United will also likely feature Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba atop Ander Herrera.

If someone is going to break United down, it could be midfield wizards Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schone. The creative middle men have a variety of options to find with the ball, including on-loan Chelsea man Bertrand Traore and Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.

But how will they deal with United’s attack? Sure Ajax has stopped Lyon, Schalke, Copenhagen, and Legia Warsaw, but United and Mourinho? That’s another challenge for Peter Bosz and his men.

Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup, and this is United’s first ever trip to this particular final. The Red Devils are heavy favorites, and we expect United to prevail. Don’t sleep on Juan Mata heroics. Call it 3-1.

Allardyce resigns, opening up intriguing vacancy at Palace

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Sam Allardyce is walking away on top outside the relegation zone.

The veteran Premier League manager, 62, resigned his post as Crystal Palace on Tuesday, weeks after leading another team to safety.

The move ends a tumultuous eight months for Allardyce, who was fired as England manager after an undercover sting exposed unethical dealings with agents.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

It also comes about an hour after somebody wrote that Crystal Palace should move on from Allardyce. What a jerk, that somebody.

Rarely at a loss for words, here’s Big Sam from cpfc.co.uk:

I want to be able to savour life while I’m still relatively young and when I’m still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager.

This is the right time for me. I have no ambitions to take another job, I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.”

All kidding aside — and I’m far from a Big Sam fan — congrats to the man on walking away to enjoy the finer things in life. He had a heck of a run, and we’ll see how long he can resist being away from the fray. Cheers, Sam.