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Looking back at the last time Arsenal played Manchester City in the Charity Shield

When Arsenal meet Manchester City in Sunday's Community Shield, it will only be the second time that the two teams have met in English football's showpiece friendly. Here's what happened in the first, way back in 1934.

Shaun Botterill

On Sunday, current Premier League champions Manchester City will play current FA Cup holders Arsenal in the Community Shield, the traditional curtain-raising fixture of the English top-flight. There is, sad to say, no actual curtain. But rather neatly, this fixture falls 80 years since the last (and only other) time these two sides met to contest the shiny Shield, back in 1934.

Not exactly eighty years; the Charity Shield's curtain-raising responsibilities weren't bestowed until 1959, so the 1934 edition took place on 28 November. And it didn't take place at Wembley: until 1974, the match was held at guest venues, frequently the home ground of whichever team qualified as league champions. Which in 1934 meant Highbury.

Back then the roles were reversed, and Arsenal entered the game as champions. Indeed, like City today they'd won two titles in the previous three seasons, though the 1933-34 title had been won in the absence of the great innovator Herbert Chapman. The architect of the W-M (or 3-2-2-3) formation had died in January 1934, but caretaker Joe Shaw had been able to complete a victorious season. And the team Chapman had created was still going strong. By the time the Charity Shield rolled around, Arsenal were second from top and a lone point behind Sunderland and with a superior goal average. By the end of the season, Chapman's former assistant George Allison had guided the North Londoners to a hat-trick of titles.

Their opponents, meanwhile, had beaten Portsmouth 2-1 to lift the 1934 FA Cup, a victory most remembered for the performance of teenager Frank Swift in goal. This was a more innocent time, long before "trophy droughts" were an article of public vexation, but City hadn't won any major silverware since the last time they'd lifted the Cup back in 1904, and their last shiny pot of any kind had been the 1927-28 Second Division title. After sixteen games of the 1934-35 season they were sat in fifth, a mere two points behind their more illustrious opponents. Hopes were high that the Shield would be an even contest.

It wasn't to be. As the Times' match report notes "Arsenal had the satisfaction of winning the Shield for the fourth time in five years, but the game on the whole fell below its promise through the failure of Manchester City to live up to their reputation." Indeed, the game was effectively over as a contest after the Londoners nicked two early goals. The first came when City's goalkeeper Frank Swift came to claim a corner but fumbled his take onto the feet of a grateful James Marshall; the second saw the "thrusting and clever" Marshall turn provider, as he cut in from the right wing and teed up Ralph Birkett on the edge of the box.

After a flat first half against Arsenal's "machine-like defence", City perked up a touch in the second half, funneling the ball to their wingers. However, natural circumstances were conspiring against them. Darkness was falling, and "the light was so bad that most of their long kicking was speculative. The last 20 minutes of the match were played in deep gloom, in which the players, from the stands, looked like so many marionettes, jerked into activity by an invisible ball." In the end, they had to fall back on long shots, none of which particularly troubled Frank Moss in the Arsenal net.

Arsenal, for their part, were happy to wait for their opponents' attacks to break down, and sealed the game with two further goals on the break. First Cliff Bastin ran onto a long pass from Marshall and beat Swift with "a shot that no-one saw", then Ted Drake nodded home a Birkett cross. Four-nil to the Arsenal.

Tradition suggests that winning the Charity or Community Shield is, in effect, a curse on the season ahead. Of Arsenal's thirteen league titles, only three have been preceded by a win in the Shield. Since the introduction of the Shield in 1908, only 18 teams have won the exhibition trophy and then gone on to lift the title (though it has happened four times in the last six seasons).

If the reversal of the historical roles is any kind of indicator, the curse won't hold this term. City will win the Community Shield at a canter and go on to win the league this season and the next. But Arsenal needn't despair too much. City, though they lost the 1934 Shield and finished fourth that season, eventually got their hands on the trophy a couple of seasons later. Get the tattoos now, Gooners. Premier League Champions 2016-17.