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The gloves are off: Hart left on City bench

IT is the obligation of the football supporter to remain by their team's side even in during the discomfort of defeat.

Olivier Giroud, right, watches as his sumptuous shot flies past Willy Caballero and into the net to cap a comprehensive victory for Arsenal as the London side overcame Manchester City at Wembley to secure the FA Community Shield. Picture: Reuters
Olivier Giroud, right, watches as his sumptuous shot flies past Willy Caballero and into the net to cap a comprehensive victory for Arsenal as the London side overcame Manchester City at Wembley to secure the FA Community Shield. Picture: Reuters

It was the salvation of City fans yesterday that their minds were still permitted to wander freely and offer a distraction from a meeting with Arsenal which ended with the loss of three goals and one trophy: the FA Community Shield.

The cracks which appeared in either teams' performance were papered over with the confetti which fell inside Wembley, a theatrical addition to a match which holds about as much prestige as the Renfrewshire Cup final. There was an escape for City supporters, though, and it was not through an emergency exit. Instead there was an opportunity to debate the significance of Willy Caballero being preferred in goal ahead of Joe Hart. He was the No.1 for City last season but may no longer be the main man for Manuel Pellegrini.

The England internationalist is an established member of the City squad but his form last season was blotted by errors against such as Cardiff City and Chelsea. It is the misfortune of a goalkeeper that mistakes can lose his team goals and league points, while Hart may also be required to concede his starting place to Caballero too. The Argentine served Pellegrini at Malaga and teamed up with the coach at the Etihad this summer.

"All the 22 players that we have in our squad must demonstrate who is number one in all the positions," said Pellegrini, who was unable to call upon another summer signing, Bacary Sagna, yesterday. "The goalkeeper and the other positions of the team are exactly the same. Joe finished last season playing very well. We'll see next Sunday which team starts against Newcastle [in City's opening league match]."

Shipping three goals and letting slip the first item of silverware of the season does not speak to a compelling performance from Caballero, of course. Yet he was part of a City team weakened by the absence of captain Vincent Kompany and striker Sergio Aguero, and which would come to include Scott Sinclair. The name should the name seem familiar since he was once an impressive winger for Swansea City.

"It was not the day to make pressure for different players. It was one game more for pre-season," added Pellegrini, whose team open the new league campaign against Newcastle United on Sunday. "We'll see during the week which of them are ready and which of them are not ready.

"First half we didn't play with the pace we did the whole pre-season and Arsenal scored two goals because we didn't defend very well. The second half we played well, with possession of the ball, we had chances to score. It was really near to the team that I saw in pre-season. It is always bad to lose, but we don't need to worry."

Arsene Wenger was obliged to feel satisfied with victory and the display of a team in which new signings Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy have joined seamlessly. With Calum Chambers also a composed, if youthful, figure in defence it was as though Arsenal hoped that the earlier sale of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona would be neglected.

Santi Cazorla may not have side-stepped that issue but he did jink past the City defence to cut a neat shot past Caballero to open the scoring for Arsenal after 21 minutes. Aaron Ramsey was able to follow suit 20 minutes later after he gathered the ball inside the penalty area to shoot low into the net.

By the time Olivier Giroud clipped a delightful, piercing shot high past the City goalkeeper, Wenger was on his feet and applauding the efforts of his players and their execution of both his instructions and City's hopes of a win at Wembley. "The first half was very exciting," the Frenchman said. "We had the complete performance in the first half. In the second half our togetherness and the third goal got us through."

A complete performance perhaps but the departure of erstwhile club captain Vermaelen has left a gap in the squad which the Arsenal manager hopes to fill before his side begin their league campaign at home against Crystal Palace. "If I can find another [defender] I will do it, but to find another one of that quality will not be easy," he said.

"He [Vermaelen] had a choice between clubs. It means these clubs have looked everywhere as well. It is not easy to find [a defender]."

At least City supporters found a distraction easier to come across.

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