It used to be called the Charity Shield with match receipts from the traditional season curtain-raiser of Champions and FA Cup victors going to worthy causes.
Manchester City and Arsenal will contest the re-named ‘Community’ Shield – very apt given the distinct lack of anything even remotely charitable emanating from the meanie-mouthed Arsene ‘Whinger’ Wenger, whenever City are the topic of conversation.
The Arsenal boss just can’t help himself when it comes to ‘liddle old Citeh’… he just has to have a pop.
He likes to cultivate the media’s portrayal of him as a professorial-like figure, a man of wisdom and gentlemanly persuasion. Wenger would do well to study the demeanour and proclamations of Manchester City managers, both past and present, if he truly aspires to such personal qualities.
Manuel Pellegrini is everything that Wenger would like to believe himself to be. The calm Chilean conducts himself with an air of impeccability, imbued with a fantastic football philosophy and man-management skills that adapt to coax the best out of both prima donna millionaires, right through to salt of the earth players who comprise the Etihad playing staff.
Nicknamed ‘The Engineer’ for his innate ability to construct beautifully moving ‘machines’, Pellegrini won a unique Premier League and Capital One Cup double for City in his debut season.
His achievements marked 2013/14 out as City’s single most successful ever season. With two years remaining on his existing contract, the man from Santiago has every chance of eclipsing City’s most revered manager of all time, Joe Mercer.
Joe won the League, FA Cup, Charity Shield, League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup in three glorious campaigns between 1967-1970, aided by invaluable coaching wisdom of Assistant Manager, Malcolm Allison.
Mercer was hugely admired and respected as a football player and manager, who in a playing career with Everton, but more prominently, Arsenal, won three league titles an FA Cup, two Charity Shields and was voted Footballer of the Year in 1950.
Remarkably he is more readily remembered for his humanity, character, kindness and consideration rather than his medals and football accolades.
It’s hoped that a day after what would have been his 100th birthday, Wembley officials, Arsenal and City fans can come together to honour Joe’s memory with a minutes applause. It isn’t too much to ask.
Pellegrini – as much of a gentleman as he is – would be going some, to ever capture hearts in the way Joe Mercer did, but when it comes to winning trophies for Manchester City well, that’s a completely different proposition.
He has earned the begrudging respect of many who wished him ill, as he initially struggled to get to grips with the demands of the Premier League in contrast to the softer landings of La Liga.
He didn’t warrant much of anything meritorious with a media obsessed by the season long love-in with Brendan Rodgers, a media willing to be manipulated by Jose Mourinho and a media fascinated by the treachery and backstabbing of David Moyes at the Theatre of Screams.
It’s a surprise Manuel doesn’t have Corp Diplomatic number plates on his car. He avoids controversy and refuses to rise to the baiting of adolescent sniping and sneering of rivals.
If anyone mistakes such an approach as lacking an appetite for the fight then they don’t know Pellegrini or the self belief and will to win he instils in his teams.
Close scrutiny of the unassuming but self-assured Pellegrini, reveals why Sheikh Mansour, Khaldoon Al Mubarak and Ferran Soriano sought out his services to lead City’s rapid evolution.
He could – indeed should – be celebrated as Manchester City’s most successful ever manager in next to no time. Expectations are high – not unreasonably – and Manuel knows what he has to do, and the stylish manner in which he has to do it.
He prefers to restrict himself in public to talking about his players, his team and his objectives. He doesn’t feel the need to criticise other teams, unlike the immature, bitter French whine who reeks of hypocrisy every time he opens his jaundiced chops to talk about City.
First of all, Wenger accuses City of breaching UEFA Financial Fair Play rules and demands harsh punishments.
City are heavily fined, deprived of players for the Champions League, have a salary cap imposed and their transfer budget limited to a net £49m spend…all at a time when Wenger spends more than £30m on one player.
So, when City operate within the punitive sanctions and actually shape up to chronically under spend in the transfer market, (possibly even realising a profit on incoming and outgoing players) Wenger moans about the loan deal involving New York City’s Frank Lampard.
Strange how Wenger has never been self critical when crawling back to take Thierry Henry on loan from the New York Red Bulls to bail out his misfiring Gunners. Not so much about the Big Apple, more like a very sour one.
And, as he runs out of ammunition in the approach to the Community Shield, Wenger suddenly reveals that Bacary Sagna must have been the subject of an illegal approach from City months ago. On what basis?
Wenger now revels in his ability to splash big money on the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, but only following his abject failure to build a team via the ranks of the Emirates youth system.
He could yet claim that the youth system has born fruit…provided he gives the credit to Southampton’s Academy thanks to messrs Walcott, Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Chambers etc.
Irony of ironies could see the much vaunted Etihad Campus producing a conveyor belt of young global, but ultimately ‘homegrown’ talent – the type of production line that Wenger has coveted for so long – but failed to deliver.
Setting aside the long term prospects of City’s evolving youth policies and Arsenal’s new splash the cash approach, both sides would rather start the season with silverware than not.
It’s Wembley, it’s glitz and glamour and it’s a stage to display your wares and begin bedding in new signings in a more competitive environment. It isn’t necessarily a barometer of what’s to come when the Premier League kicks off in anger a week later.
Pellegrini has already said seven World Cup returners will be missing from his squad namely Aguero, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Fernandinho, Sagna and Lampard.
In addition Negredo is injured and the longest running chase since Lord Lucan did a bunk is still to be concluded…but Eliaquim Mangala WILL be a City player before the sunsets on this transfer window.
Nonetheless City will still field a strong team, albeit with an unbalanced defence with a novice looking centre back pairing, relying heavily on youth.
Hart, Kolarov, Fernando, Yaya, Silva, Dzeko, Nasri, Jovetic, Milner and Navas are all conceivable starters in City’s opening PL tie away at Newcastle.
Rekik and Nastasic should be considered as more accomplished Wembley options than Boyata at centre back , whereas sad to say Richards, Sinclair and Guidetti are all but booked out at the Last Chance Saloon.
Rumours abound about Nastasic’s future and a £15m bid from a top Italian team could see his two years at the Etihad come to an end.
Garcia, despite finally beginning to look the part last season, is a victim of City having too many foreign players and looks set for Zenit St Petersburg in a near £13m deal.
Whether or not Pellegrini will have the luxury of letting new boy Willy Caballero have some match time remains to be seen. The early indications bode well that City have two very able goalkeeping custodians in 2014/15.
City’s fifth Argentine, young midfield prospect Bruno Zuculini, might make the bench and then he looks destined for a loan spell at Sunderland until January, to gain vital PL experience.
If so, he’ll be joining Jack Rodwell and Costel Pantilimon who have both switched to the Stadium of Light during the summer.
Arsenal fans will be excited at watching Pellegrini’s sizzling countryman Sanchez, the one Arsenal player that City would probably have welcomed into their squad, had it not been for FFP constraints.
With the tail end of Hurricane Bertha threatening to wag its way across the country, it promises to be a wet and blustery day at Wembley.
But if Manuel Pellegrini wins his first Community Shield you can be assured of a cloud of hot air coming in from North London, courtesy of windbag Wenger’s protestations.
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu