by Lewis Ambrose
The season is finally back. Or is it?
Nobody really knows whether or not to count the Community Shield as a competitive match. Whether or not Sunday counts will probably depend on the result and what it means to you. If Arsenal win Arsène Wenger has beaten José Mourinho for the first time for some fans. Others will claim it is a totally meaningless game and ‘doesn’t count’.
A trophy is on the line, and the game will be played between two rival clubs in front of 90,000 at Wembley: it has to mean something.
A win will let Arsenal players know they can beat Mourinho while the Chelsea squad, just as importantly, will learn the same.
Speaking at Friday’s press conference Arsène Wenger said the game was one to be taken seriously, a fixture which draws the curtain on pre-season.
“The preparation was compact, short but overall, physically, I think we are not far,” Wenger told the media at London Colney. “We had a good preparation, a good preparation brings confidence.
“Competition demands peformance, but it’s a good basis to have good confidence level in the preparation.”
So far Arsenal have recorded two trophy wins and looked good while beating Everton, Olympique Lyonnais and VfL Wolfsburg in the process. The players look sharp and ready to head into the season in a much more competitive nature than last season, when the World Cup was a distraction.
Now the attention turns to Wembley.
“It’s the first trophy at stake so we will, of course, want to win the game,” Wenger said.
That doesn’t, however, mean the result will indicate just how well the season will go.
“You want a good pre-season. It doesn’t give the guarantee that in the competition you’ll start strong but it’s good for the confidence and belief of a group.”
Arsenal seem to have belief in abundance, now it is about applying that belief – and their talent – in the right way on the pitch.
Arsenal are without Danny Welbeck (knee) and Alexis Sánchez (holiday) at Wembley.
Goalkeeper Petr Čech will surely start against his former teammates. At the back Wenger is likely to choice the back four that ended last season as first choice but Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs may get a chance to impress.
A surprise could be sprung in midfield with the Arsenal boss eager to experiment with Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla, which would leave no room for Francis Coquelin. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott should provide dynamism and goal threat from wide. Jack Wilshere could get a chance in a wide midfield role if Wenger wants more support centrally.
That leaves Olivier Giroud to lead the line, with his link-up play crucial.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Cazorla, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.
Just when you think you missed football over the summer you are reminded that Chelsea and José Mourinho are in the game.
The summer window has seen Chelsea replace Čech with Asmir Begović, who will spend a year on the bench. The same is likely to apply to loan striker Radamel Falcao.
Building on a solid defence the pinpoint passing of Cesc Fàbregas will be dangerous in tandem with the pace and close control of Eden Hazard, they pose Chelsea’s biggest threats.
“He can decide games,” Wenger said of Hazard during the week. “You put top players in that kind of calibre when they can decide games by creating something special, Hazard is in that category”
Chelsea have a full-strength XI at their disposal after José Mourinho confirmed on Friday that Gary Cahill and Diego Costa would be available.
Possible XI: Courtois; Ivanović, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matić, Fàbregas; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Diego Costa
This week saw José Mourinho attempt to pile pressure on Arsenal and Wenger, talking about how much Arsenal have spent in recent seasons and how it is now paramount that the Gunners compete.
The complaint showed two things:
- Mourinho doesn’t check his facts.
- Mourinho is scared of Arsenal.
After a decade of comparative frugality Arsenal bucked the trend and have spent more money in recent years. Another trend was bucked when Arsenal finally won a trophy, lifting the FA Cup back in 2014. Retaining it in 2015 showed it wasn’t one-off.
A third trend could be bucked this weekend, with the Gunners finally getting one over Mourinho. He’s afraid of Arsenal this season and a win on Sunday would reinforce that before the Premier League campaign begins. That’s why the game matters.