With the summer departures of David Beckham and David Seaman, TheFA.com assesses
With the summer departures of David Beckham and David Seaman, TheFA.com assesses how Arsenal and United will cope with the departure of two of their most iconic players...
For the last 13 years there would have been a fair chance that either David Seaman or David Beckham would have been playing in today's FA Community Shield. However, over the summer, the two England legends have moved on to pastures new and away from the clubs where they attained such riches as The FA Cup, the Premiership and, in Beckham's case at least, The Champions League.
Soon after Arsenal had lifted their ninth FA Cup in May (the victory that brings them back to Cardiff today) David Seaman announced his decision to move to United's neighbours, Manchester City, when his contract with the Gunners expired.
Beckham's transfer was a much more extravagant affair. His last game for United at Goodison Park on 11 May, when they were crowned Champions, was followed by more than a month of speculation across Europe about what colour he'd be wearing next season. When the saga finally came to an end on 17th June, it was revealed that United had accepted Real Madrid's offer for his signature and Becks was on his way to Spain.
It's strange, after so long, that neither of these famous names appear on the clubs' team sheets, where their inclusion has almost been taken for granted, but will their former comrades miss them when they face their biggest rivals in recent years this afternoon?
Soon after joining Arsenal, David Seaman began to make the England number one jersey his own and, until last season, when he reached the age of 39, he was rarely seen out of the Three Lions line-up.
In his time in North London, he's come up against Manchester United 24 times and has been on the losing side in only a quarter of those, the most recent being the 6-1 drubbing at Old Trafford two years ago. On ten occasions United, who have been by far the Premiership's leading scorers since its inception, failed to beat 'Safe Hands'.
Beckham is 11 years the Yorkshireman's junior and has figured in seventeen United-Arsenal matches, including 12 against Seaman. He could be justified in thinking that the Londoners are his 'bogey team'. The boy who played for Spurs' school of excellence, lost nine times against the Gunners, including two Charity Shield games at Wembley, 3-0 and 2-1.
Since 1995, there have been five matches without Beckham, and the honours have been even. Two wins apiece and the most recent encounter at Highbury in April finished in a 2-2 draw giving little away as to where the Championship was going - that day, like today, Seaman was also elsewhere. But eleven months earlier, for the previous title decider in Manchester when Wiltord's goal clinched the Championship for Wenger's men, Seaman had an important shutout.
To assess the two teams without their Davids, we don't have to go back too far. Two of the three meetings last season were played without either of them, United just having the edge. Before the 2-2 in April, Ferguson's boys enjoyed their revenge beating Arsenal 2-0 in December.
So, statistically at least, it appears that United will be glad to see the back of Seaman a little more than Arsenal will Beckham, but it's not quite as simple as that. Both players are simply an inspiration and over the years have formed what seem almost unbeatable alliances with the players around them.
Seaman was the final part of the famous Arsenal back-five and would himself attribute many of his clean sheets to the team ethic. His team mates, in turn, would point to his individual brilliance. Arguably, Seaman produced the best save of his career at Old Trafford in his final season with Arsenal, when he saved Paul Peschisolido's point blank header with amazing agility and maintained the Gunners' 1-0 semi-final lead in The FA Cup.
Similarly, Beckham was a key member of the United midfield that included Giggs, Keane and Scholes, that has been fundamental to their success in recent seasons. He would regularly be relied upon to come up trumps from dead-ball situations, or pepper the opposition penalty area with crosses that lesser men than van Nistelrooy could finish with ease.
So to say either player wouldn't be missed would be wrong, they are two of the biggest names in European football and would make the grade at any team. But Manchester United and Arsenal have proven time and again that they are bigger than any one player and are each capable of dazzling all-round displays.
Probably the one person who'll miss Seaman and Becks the most will be Freddie Ljungberg. All the focus will be on his hairstyle now.
by Jamie Bradbury
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