Arsenal vs Manchester City: Rich Arsenal could still lose players to City, warns Kieran Gibbs
Gunners have seen five first team players head to City since 2009 and Gibbs has warned Arsenal the trend could still continue
Kieran Gibbs hopes the quality of Arsenal’s summer signings will prevent Manchester City luring players north, although he admits more could yet follow Bacary Sagna from the Emirates to the Etihad.
Sagna has been ruled out of the City team for today’s Community Shield at Wembley, but Gibbs hopes Arsenal newcomers, including £35m Chile forward Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, will still impress his former full-back partner, who has followed the well-trodden path taken by Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Touré, Samir Nasri and Gaël Clichy.
“The days of people leaving for Man City are not over, because Sagna has just left,” Gibbs admits. “But you’d think from the signings we’ve made that they can achieve things here.”
Sagna’s decision to leave was, perhaps, all the more puzzling because Arsenal are finally cash rich. In addition to Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy (£12m from Newcastle) has replaced Sagna, and Calum Chambers (£16m from Southampton) adds cover in a range of positions. There could be more to come, and even the speculation about possible additions, including Marco Reus and Edinson Cavani, has reflected the club’s improved financial standing.
Things have changed at Arsenal, a feeling and a fact emphasised by their first appearance since 2005 in the annual charity match between the Premier League champions and FA Cup holders. Now the empty space on the “honours board” around the upper tier of the stadium just above the away supporters’ seats is filled, with “2014” and an image of the FA Cup. And what a difference that trophy has made.
Gibbs still winces when reminded of his miss from eight yards late in the 3-2 FA Cup victory over Hull City in May, but Aaron Ramsey’s extra-time winner meant that the left-back can report on an improved mood in the camp rather than attempt to explain away another barren season. “Everyone at the club needed it,” he said. “It was extra-special because it had been so long for the club and everyone had been so desperate.
“The atmosphere is different. The ceiling is higher. You feel more mature because you have gone through a lot to get your hands on a trophy and you realise what it takes. The players have come back as bigger personalities.”
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Arsène Wenger, the manager, is as cautious as ever, perhaps wary of the extra pressures and fewer excuses that come with a larger transfer kitty. “Let’s not go overboard,” he said. “We are more comfortable, but we are not Manchester City. The real pressure was to keep the club financially capable to pay back the [stadium] debt and for that we needed to be in the Champions League every year. If I write my book one day I will explain why that was the real pressure.”
For now he can enjoy the problem of selecting a winning team from an improved squad. Although Mezut Özil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski are still on World Cup leave and Theo Walcott will not be fit until September, Costa Rican World Cup find Joel Campbell will be given his chance, while Jack Wilshere is fully fit and, Wenger believes, could have – needs to have – the season of his young career. Shad Forsythe, the American conditioning expert who has worked with the Germany team for a decade, will attempt to make the players less prone to the injuries that bedevilled Arsenal’s 2013-14 season.
Sanchez, like Özil a year ago, has raised the bar for Gibbs and the rest.
“Özil came in as if he still had something to prove, as if he wasn’t already a world-class player,” Gibbs says.
“Alexis has that same mentality. Facing him in training is not the best day you’re going to have. He’s like an animal, he’s everywhere, never stops running. He’s a tough character.” How far can he take Arsenal? “I believe we can win the League,” Gibbs says.
Manchester City v Arsenal is live on BT Sport 1 today, kick-off 3pm
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