Food for Thought

Arsenal 1-1 (4-1 pens) Chelsea, Community Shield, 06/08/17

The Community Shield is an odd occasion, marking the beginning of the season on the same weekend as the Football League returned, the winners claim a trophy success whilst the losers shrug their shoulders and pass it off as a friendly. Sunday’s match felt like a ‘London’ occasion, of course obviously with it being Arsenal versus Chelsea, but also as this year’s Community Shield raising funds for the Grenfell Tower Community. FA Chairman Greg Clarke stated in his matchday programme notes that the occasion hopes “to raise over £1.25m”, with both clubs raising £500,000 between them. Whether a ‘proper’ trophy or not, the Community Shield is a great occasion to help out the wider community and show the power of football. Of course it also provides “an oasis for the parched fan after the desert of a summer” as Henry Winter put it.

Overall I would argue Arsenal were the stronger side in the first half, whilst neither side created a clear cut chance, Lacazette hit the post and Iwobi surely would’ve scored had his first touch been neater. Chelsea did threaten, but whenever we went forwards there seemed to be more threat and efficiency. Welbeck, Lacazette and Iwobi were explosive at times, and whilst clearly not gelled as a front three, they provide dynamism from their pace and power which looked intimidating on the counter attack. Had Oxlade-Chamberlain been at his best (which he was far from, it took him until deep in the second half to grow into the game) Arsenal would’ve been potent going forwards. Lacazette likes to press, not as vigorously as Welbeck or Sanchez, but still enough to encourage the fans. Welbeck gave a typical performance – hard-working, positive and explosive, his highlight of the game being a strong slide tackle by the corner flag that lifted the Arsenal fans. Defensively we looked shaky once Mertesacker came off, only to be expected when you only have one true centre half on the pitch. Rob Holding did play relatively well though, showing increased composure and already serious progress has been made since his debut a year ago.

Wembley was still filling up as Moses scored Chelsea’s goal, Arsenal had a serious case of falling asleep after half time, Chelsea dominated the early second half phases. Eventually Arsenal woke from their slumber, with a couple of chances coming from good movement but ultimately disappointing crossing from Hector Bellerin. Giroud coming on frustrated me and he made little impact in during the 24 minutes he spent on the pitch in regular time, the same applies for Walcott, although they proved useful later.

Chelsea seem to have an addiction to both diving and red cards at Wembley, Willian was booked for simulation and greeted to “same old Chelsea, always cheating”. Pedro’s sending off was too late to tip the balance in terms of number of men, but must’ve given Arsenal a significant psychological boost. From the free kick new signing Sead Kolasinac scored his first goal for Arsenal, he gave a man of the match performance (although Xhaka will have something to say about that) after coming on. For a free transfer he looked fantastic, he had buccaneering runs from defence and has superb physical attributes. Arsenal deserved the goal that took it to extra time.

With the extra man and momentum, Arsenal would’ve won in extra time, so really pens could’ve been Chelsea’s escape. In the end Courtois fluffed his, and Morata was unlucky, Giroud to his credit took his well, as did all our players, and Arsenal got the deserved victory.

Overall a pleasing way to begin the season as we look ahead to a tricky opening fixture at home to Leicester. The attitudes of our signings was positive, they seem ambitious and hard working. Whilst the mentality of the squad has been questionable on plenty of occasions, they seemed strong yesterday and there are a number of ‘likeable’ players – Welbeck, Iwobi, Holding and Oxlade-Chamberlain for example, players that I feel the fans can get behind whilst, Lacazette and Kolasinac could join that list if they perform to the potential they gave off yesterday. This squad won’t win the league, but I genuinely think with some tactical astuteness and belief they have the potential too. If Arsenal keep Sanchez and Ozil, we have a strong squad with only one or two components missing, and overall a pretty ‘likeable’ side for fans when they play with the passion and energy that they’re capable of.

Man Of The Match: Sead Kolasinac

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