A summer of transition had taken centre stage at Emirates Stadium this summer with Arsene Wenger leaving after 22 years at the helm. The Gunners were busy in the transfer market, attempting to strengthen the squad in key positions – from goalkeeper to defensive midfield.
“We must remain grounded when we win and united when we don’t,” wrote Emery in his programme notes.
The Spaniard urged the Arsenal fans to stick behind the team even when things don’t go to plan, although the past few seasons in north London have depicted a far from unified camp.
Staged protests and fan discontent provided the narrative of the last two years and it’s clear that the Emery project will need some time before he gets Arsenal playing with the quick pressing style demanded.
Emery handed a start to 19-year-old midfielder Matteo Guendouzi, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stephan Lichtsteiner also made their Premier League debuts – the latter as a substitute.
Guendouzi was rewarded for his fine pre-season form even if his last competitive game was in the French second division for Lorient in front of 8,000 spectators. The energetic midfielder struggled to leave his mark on the game and his distribution was particularly wayward, but he should be commended for displaying a never-say-die attitude instead of crumbling in front of millions watching around the world.
The decision to start Guendouzi will certainly be questioned when you consider that Lucas Torreira was available, but the game itself provided a glimpse at how the gulf in class has widened between these two sides over the past few years.
Guardiola’s intensity was matched by his managerial counterpart on the sidelines but Arsenal struggled to get close to City on the pitch. Bernard Mendy caused a host of problems down the left-hand side and was involved in City’s two goals.
Raheem Sterling netted the opener, although there will be question marks over whether Petr Cech could have done better in dealing with it. Summer signing Bernd Leno would have been watching on the bench knowing that he has a significant chance of succeeding the ageing Czech shot-stopper, whose own distribution was suspect throughout – including a comical moment when he nearly passed the ball into his own net.
The second goal from Bernardo Silva summed up City’s ruthless attacking prowess as he thumped the ball into the roof of the net – sending a clear message to the rest of the league that City will once again be the team to beat this season.
City were without David Silva and Vincent Kompany at the Emirates while Kevin De Bruyne was only introduced as a second-half substitute. Even without key players the intensity and organisation of Guardiola’s men could not be matched by Arsenal, just as it couldn’t by Chelsea in last week’s Community Shield.
Arsenal themselves travel to play Chelsea next weekend and Emery will need to make sure his squad regroup. The Gunners may be a work in progress but they will need to improve significantly on Sunday’s showing if they are to return to the top four after two years out of the Champions League.