by Nia Griffiths

Paul Merson has contradicted what both Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have said about Sunday’s Community Shield by saying the result doesn’t matter to either team.

The former Arsenal man has said that, after we beat Manchester City in last season’s tournament, the outcome means nothing and that to Chelsea in particular, it’s ‘irrelevant’. He also went on to say that Arsenal now have no excuse not to truly challenge for the league next season, despite needing more signings, and predicts us to win 1-0 in the Community Shield.

It’s probably fair to say that I generally agree with about 30% of what Merson says, and that’s being a tad generous. This is no different.

On how seriously the teams will take the result, the pundit said, “I don’t think it is if I am being honest, and I say that because Arsenal slaughtered Manchester City last year, and it did not really make any difference as Arsenal made a terrible start and were never in the title race from pretty early on in the season.”

I’d have to disagree. The result could mean we strengthen or could show us which areas of our game we need to work on. Facing our direct rivals at such an early stage could be hugely helpful. Although we came third last season, we did beat Manchester City 2-0 at their home ground after beating them 3-0 in the Shield.

“I do not think [the outcome is relevant to the Premier League], not really,” Merson continued. “You are Chelsea, who are playing big games over in America, so that tells you straight away that the Community Shield is irrelevant to them really. We saw in last year’s game that Arsenal were unbelievable that day against Manchester City and everyone then said that they were going to win the league – and this and that – then all of a sudden they were never even in the title race.”

He added, “I would say this game means more to Arsenal than it does to Chelsea and I think that when it is like that, the team it matters most to usually win. Chelsea will have been in America playing big games and I just think that Arsenal will be up for it more, as they were against City last year. And when that happens, that team usually win, so I am just going to go for an Arsenal victory.

“However, I would be shocked if Arsenal finish above Chelsea come the end of the season.”

Cheers, Mers’.

The former England international has no doubt that Arsenal should be challenging for the title next season. “For the first time in a long, long time – since the days of Jens Lehmann – Arsenal have got a goalie [Petr Cech] who is going to save them points rather than give them away. I mean this goalie is going to save you points, there is no doubt about that.

“And there is also talk about Arsenal putting in a bid for Sergio Busquets as well and if they can get him, then that would be Bob’s your uncle. I think that Arsenal have got every chance and they have no excuses.”

Yeah, that’s right. Arsenal will just put in a cheeky bid for Busquets and then Bob’s your uncle… We win the league. It’s that simple.

Merson continued to rain down pearls of wisdom upon us by saying that although we should be title contenders next season and there’s no excuse not to be, we’re not favourites.

“I would not put them as favourites,” he said. “As this team have not won it before, so it is a different kettle of fish come next March. The thing is, Chelsea have been there and done it, whereas Arsenal haven’t, and that is why if you see the bookmakers’ prices Arsenal are a lot longer than Chelsea and City. And that is because they have not been in that situation before.

“However, if they are not contending come next April, then there have got to be serious questions asked, especially as they have bought a very good goalie.”

The pundit went on to elaborate on who we need to add to our squad, saying, “I still think that they need a holding midfielder – they are talking about them putting in a bid for Busquets from Barcelona and if they can get him, that would be a massive signing as he is a big player.”

I think he wants us to sign Busquets…

He went on, “Arsenal had Francis Coquelin in that role last season, but will you win the Premier League with just him as your holding midfielder though? I don’t think so, so for me I think they need to still get a holding midfielder, so that really dents them. Especially when you get to the latter stages of the Champions League, as you have to remember that Coquelin was on loan last season (at Charlton Athletic), so if you look at a team sheet with his name on it.”

Finally, Merson predicted we would beat Chelsea 1-0 on Sunday, but obviously this means absolutely nothing…