It’s always nice to get back to football. Proper football. Football where £200m transfers are not a thing, Football that isn’t determined by the purses of deathly Middle Eastern head of states. Football that is all about mutual loathing, tribal loyalty and bragging rights. Yes, that sort of football.
The curtain-raiser to the English Premier League is often seen as not much than a glorified friendly and rightly so. But it can prove useful to gauge how new signings bed in and maybe portend what the future holds. This probably reflected in the thinking of both Chelsea and Arsenal coaches when they picked their starting teams for the Community Shield. In what was a replay of last season’s FA Cup final, both teams stuck with the 3-4-3 formation they ended the season with, probably eschewing tinkering in favour of something tried and tested.
But both teams had some of their star actors missing. For Arsenal; Alexis missed out as he only arrived London less than a week ago after his Confederations Cup exertions, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey had slight knocks and were wisely not risked, Mustafi too was left out because of the Confed Cup. For Chelsea, the only true star for the cross-city rivals missing was Eden Hazard, who is still injured. Oh, and Diego Costa, who is still in transfer limbo.
There were new stars on show though. New record signing, Alexandre Lacazette started upfront for the Gunners, which Chelsea played Michy Batshuayi upfront.
It was however the team that is perhaps less familiar with the three at the back system that settled quickly. Pressing the Chelsea high up and breaking with pace, the front three of Lacazette, Welbeck and Iwobi troubled the Chelsea backline in the first 20 minutes, with chances to boot. Welbeck was fed by a glorious long pass by Xhaka and only tamed headed the ball to Courtouis. Iwobi broke free from the right and was thwarted by the Chelsea defence. When it was the turn of Lacazette, he really couldn’t do better. Just inside the box, surrounded by Chelsea defenders, somehow he found a way to bend the ball past the Chelsea goalkeeper and unluckily onto the post.
The Arsenal team was content to let Chelsea have the ball, breaking when they had the chance while Chelsea resorted to long balls over the top. The game turned on its head mid way into the first half when Gary Cahill smashed his forehead against Per Mertesacker’s forehead. The Arsenal captain was immediately bloodied and had to go to the dressing room for treatment. Free signing Said Kolasinac came in for him and led to the frankly ridiculous situation of 5’10 Nacho Montreal playing as the centre of the back three.
Gradually, Chelsea grew into the game, without threatening Cech’s goal that many times. Their best chances, however came when there were mixups between the defence and the keeper, especially after the Arsenal captain exited the field. This is Arsenal we are taking about.
Onto the second half and Chelsea started quicker out of the blocks. They had a corner early doors and from that Victor Moses profited, sliding the ball past Cech. This however didn’t dampen the spirit of the Arsenal boys; they kept pushing and pressing, especially after the introduction of Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott for Lacazette and Iwobi. Xhaka even had time from keeping Cesc anonymous to sting the hands of the Belgian keeper.
The game turned on its head again when Pedro inexplicably aimed his studs at the Achilles of Elneny and was justly sent off by Bobby Madley. From the resultant free kick, Kolasinac rose highest and headed the ball past a stranded Courtouis. Game level.
As usual Theo Walcott fumbled a couple of late opportunities and it was time for penalties and it took on the accursed A-B-B-A format. The less said about that the better.
Gary Cahill scored the first penalty and Walcott and Montreal scored theirs too. Courtouis thought he was playing a goal kick and £70m Morata screwed his wide. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud scored theirs and Arsenal were Community Shield champs again.
So what have we learned? Not much.
Lacazette looks like the poacher many have been clamouring for years, you wouldn’t want to come across Kolasinac in a dark alley, Monreal can handle himself anywhere in a back three, Bellerin still can cross his way out of a multiple choice exam sheet, Xhaka can still hit them and Holding is still better than Cannavaro.
The league starts in six days with a home game against Leicester and based on this performance and result, it is difficult to know what to expect from the team. Will they build on this game and push or will lapse into the same ol’ Arsenal? We will find out soon enough.
Oh and this feels so good, beating the old enemy (sit down Sp*rs) always leaves a sweet taste in the mouth. Friendly or not.
COME ON YOU RIP ROARING GUNNERS!!!!