Arsenal comfortably denied City a fifth FA Community Shield at Wembley.
Two first half goals from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey gave a dominant Gunners side a winning platform and though the Premier League champions improved after the break, the trophy didn’t have far to travel home to North London.
Olivier Giroud made it 3-0 in the 61st minute from long range, strangling any thoughts of a dramatic City comeback. That’s how the score remained.
The FA Community Shield (nee Charity Shield) has a long history stretching back more than a century and has come to be synonymous with all kinds of diverse football opinion.
First legitimate trophy of the season, glorified friendly, glittering showpiece, season’s signpost and competitive training session… the descriptive list goes on and on, frequently shifting depending on the result.
Both these sets of fans will certainly have a different view of what today’s outcome means. The Gooners will be buoyed; City fans will have shrugged it off in the time it took to reach the tube station, car park or change channel button on the TV.
History tells us that The Shield game rarely lingers much longer in the memory than the time it now takes a referee’s vanishing spray to disappear.
For the record Quick Draw McGraw – aka Michael Oliver – first whipped his can out of its holster after 38 minutes as City won a free kick.
The Northumberland official thus squiggled his name into history, though a future Banksy-type career is highly unlikely.
Whatever the individual reader’s point of view of the significance of the result, no one can deny that this particular renewal of pre-season centrepiece had extra frisson thanks, in some capacity, to pre-match press conference comments and the much worn recent transfer path linking the Emirates and the Etihad.
Arsenal simply played with a pace and commitment that overwhelmed the champions in the opening 45 minutes.
City looked sharp on the break, particularly down the left where Aleks Kolarov and Edin Dzeko had some joy, but they didn’t have enough of the ball to make the tangible impact needed – especially after Cazorla’s shot had found the bottom corner in the 21st minute to open the scoring.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side looked vulnerable at the back even before that opener and the second Arsenal goal which came courtesy of Ramsey four minutes before half time re-enforced that view. It didn’t help of course that Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis were sat in the stands.
Indeed, the cast list in general at this renewal was not helped by the summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Players from both sides who reached the latter stages were not deemed far enough along the fitness road to take their place on the pitch.
City were without their Argentine, Belgian, Brazilian and French WC2014 stars (Arsenal minus their German world champions) which meant a strange look to the rear-guard with Matija Nastasic and Dedryck Boyata forming a young and relatively inexperienced central pivot and Gael Clichy switching to the right.
Willy Caballero was stationed behind them. If the former Malaga number one does start Premier League games this season, the odds that his first line of protection will be the identical to the one in this game will be colossal.
There was a more familiar look to City further up the verdant Wembley turf where new signing Fernando was joined by Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure who both lit the stadium up on their last visit with City – a superb goal apiece against Sunderland in the Capital One Cup final. Not so this time as they were both subbed.
Leading the line was the main beneficiary of the summer tour Stevan Jovetic, whose form and goal scoring exploits must have him in line for a busy season of rotation with Dzeko (his strike partner in this game), Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo once the latter is fit.
That so many big names were pickpocketed from the team sheets was a shame but inevitable given the rigours that lie ahead for the next ten months but it at least gave others the opportunity to stake a claim, no matter how tenuous, for the Premier League’s opening weekend.
Even so, the Community Shield in London is both metaphorically and literally a long way from Newcastle and one can’t help but think that Pellegrini will be scribbling down some very different letter combinations next weekend.
He changed things in the second half of this game too with David Silva’s introduction giving the champions a lift and Jovetic, in another fine display, twice bringing the best out of Wojciech Szczesny who had been woefully underemployed in the first half – though Nasri did have two half chances: one was blocked – he missed the other.
It was that kind of day!