The way I see it - The Community Shield - Arsenal v Man.Utd

Last updated : 08 August 2003 By Jason Hogan
Goalscorer Gilberto at last year's Community Shield
I can honestly say that there was many a day over the summer when I was climbing the walls and it wasn't just because my other half embarked on a DIY mission that all the hallmarks of a Holy War.

No, the prime source of my exasperation came in the realisation that the Gunners could not (or would not) strengthen the squad and were struggling to tie down some of the existing Arsenal players.

To this very day, Gooners everywhere are still waiting to see if the likes of Vieira, Pires and Wiltord will commit their long-term futures to the club. In Vieira's case, I certainly have my doubts as to whether he will stay beyond this year even if he DOES sign a new deal. Still, that is an argument for another day. Time to look forward and try and accentuate a few positives methinks.
Let's start with our recent matches against the Old Firm. Having watched both games over the course of this week I have to say I was pretty pleased at how things turned out.

Make no mistake, both games were “friendlies” in name only and the atmospheres we played in both at Parkhead and Ibrox certainly endorsed that.
I thought that we were generally second best to Celtic at Parkhead for a good hour and deserved to be a goal up at that stage. But when Wenger threw Vieira on things began to change.

Indeed, whilst Kanu's equaliser on 70 minutes was rather fortuitous, it was goal that had been increasingly on the cards and in the end, 1-1 was a fair result.
On Tuesday the Gunners played the other half of the Old Firm at Ibrox and when I heard that we had won 3-0, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

I then managed to watch the whole game on Wednesday and by the time it was all over I was highly encouraged by what I saw.

It took us a good 15-20 minutes to get going but when we did, Rangers simply couldn't live with us on the night.

I was impressed with the way we passed the ball and our movement off the ball. It was almost like old times though I have to say that once again that for an hour, Paddy Vieira was, most tellingly, the driving force behind most of the positive things that we did.

After Edu put us in front on the night with a wickedly deflected shot, it was Vieira's surge into the box soon after the break that forced Rangers defender Bob Malcolm to bring our captain down and Lauren did the rest from the spot to give us a 2-0 lead. Sol Campbell wrapped it all up for us when he powered home a header form close range on the hour.

Apart from winning and seeing Vieira get a run out for a solid hour, the major plus for me was that Bergkamp looked in really good nick considering he spent a decent chunk of the summer training on his own back in Holland.

I was also pleasantly surprised by Kolo Toure's steady performance at the heart of our defence. True, the Arsenal defence as a whole were largely untroubled but maybe, just maybe Wenger might have some justification in using him there over the course of the coming season.

I was also fairly impressed with the new youngster we have bought Gael Clichy. He came on for the last ten minutes and played on the left hand side of midfield. He is technically very sound, comfortable on the ball and quick. He will need to fill out a bit and there are rough edges to be knocked off but let's put it this way- the boy definitely has something about him.

So, despite the fact that the close season hasn't necessarily brought much in the way of real excitement to Arsenal fans, we should be in fairly decent heart going into Sunday's game.

It will be interesting to see whether Wenger keeps some of his powder dry. Henry, Pires and Wiltord have yet to make their seasonal bow and it's unlikely that Keown and Senderos will figure either.

Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's game, there will always be people that will try and read something into it but personally I don't think that we have anything to prove fundamentally to anyone else but ourselves.

We have proved on more than one occasion that we can beat that lot from Old Trafford when it really matters so what I am looking for, more than anything, is to see how we are gelling as a team and in particular how we defend as a team.

If we can show the ability to do these things then we may not have much to worry about in the forthcoming season after all.