The curtain has been raised on the English football season as the champions from last year – league-winners Chelsea and FA Cup winners Arsenal – took center-stage at Wembley in London in front of 85,000 spectators. For the players and managers, the Community Shield is seen as a part of the pre-season preparations but when it is a match between two top teams with a trophy to be lifted at the end, it is by no-means meant to be a friendly affair.
And it showed. In a tightly contested affair, marked by continuing bad-blood between the two managers, Arsenal won the season-opener (or pre-season-ender, depending on where your loyalties lie) by a solitary goal thanks to Alex Oxlade Chamberlain’s brilliant first-half strike.
Here are three things that we learned from that game:
Chelsea have a problem at Center Forward position:
“We have the strikers, the wingers and the midfielders, in quality. We have two fantastic goalkeepers, plus a young good one,” was Jose Mourinho’s assessment of his squad before the Community Shield match-up. But Chelsea’s problems against Arsenal were almost entirely in the attacking third of the pitch. While some of the stray passing can be attributed to early-season rustiness, this can also be seen as a continuation of Chelsea’s problems from a laborious, albeit successful, end to the 2014-15 league campaign.
In Loic Remy, Chelsea have a solid back-up option but his injury troubles are well-documented. In Radamel Falcao, Chelsea are taking a high-risk gamble on not just someone prone to injuries but someone who has spectacularly lost form over the last year after his high-profile move to Manchester United in 2014.
But having seen Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao struggle to lead the line in 45 minutes of action each, and with Diego Costa watching on from the sidelines with a hamstring injury, Mourinho has a tricky situation brewing up top. Remy constantly strayed offside and had trouble linking up with Hazard while Falcao’s touches were poor and a man renowned for his aerial prowess was easily – far too easily – dealt with by Arsenal’s defence.
Jose might insist all is fine, but Diego Costa’s hamstring might just be the most important member of Chelsea’s squad for the upcoming season.
Arsenal might have a solution for their center-forward problem but it needs work
That’s now two finals at Wembley in a row where Theo Walcott has started as Arsenal’s center forward. Having put pen to paper on a shiny new four-year deal, Walcott is set to be handed his favoured role more often now. But that is a move that can be hit or miss for Arsenal.
In his 65 minutes on the Wembley pitch, Theo Walcott had a total of just 12 touches of the ball, according to Whoscored.com. That’s five less than Olivier Giroud’s 17, who came on a substitute, replacing Walcott. The Englishman can be a frustrating figure when he’s isolated up top against teams that sit deep but he also showed he can be decisive when given space. When Mesut Ozil was looking for options from the left-flank in a tight-corner, Walcott made himself available in the center, and when Ozil found him masterfully with space to run into, Theo found Alex Oxlade Chamberlain on the right from where Chamberlain finished with aplomb.
And that’s the deal with Walcott. His strengths are the exact opposite of Giroud’s – dribbling over holding-off players, pace over strength and finishing over silken one-touches. Giroud showed in his brief cameo he is much better at ball-retention but offers very little pace on the counter.
It’s fair to say Arsenal will start the season with two viable yet completely different options at CF and it will be interesting to see how the players around them adapt to the change of styles.
Wenger breaks his Mourinho jinx
It has taken him 14 attempts. One of them was a 6-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League. The 13th match, a 2-0 win for Chelsea at home last season, saw them push and shove on the sidelines like kids at school when their play time is cut short.
But on Sunday at Wembley, Arsene Wenger put to rest a long-standing of hoodoo of not defeating Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. In the grander scheme of things, this Community Shield win is not the biggest of games in either club’s season. I’m willing to bet even Wenger would have traded any of the previous 13 failed attempts over this one win.
This win, however, takes the monkey off Wenger’s back. Add that to the other monkeys taken off his back – the trophy-less run which ended in 2013, a win at Old Trafford against United in the FA Cup last year, a convincing victory over Manchester City at Etihad Stadium - this current Arsenal squad is getting into a good habit. A habit of winning big games at tough places.
Coming at the beginning of the new season, the win against the reigning English champions should give Arsene Wenger’s charges plenty of confidence heading into opening weekend of league action. Rest assured, the Chelsea boss will already be plotting payback on Wenger when the two sides meet at Stamford bridge on 19 September.
Updated Date: Aug 03, 2015 17:07:11 IST