My Piece for RantSports on Arsenal and the Community Shield.
For the second season in a row, Arsenal’s season begins with an appearance in the Community Shield.
The annual curtain-raiser to the Premier League season pits last season’s FA Cup winners against the defending Premier League champions. The Gunners beat Manchester City, quite convincingly, in the 2014 edition and had fans thinking positive thoughts for the games ahead. While it’s fair to point out that the game, trophy and all, is still just a very high-profile friendly, the impact on this Arsenal side was a positive one.
Arsenal went on to pick up four points from City last season, the most they got against anyone else in the top four, and a haul they matched against Liverpool. Those two were the only sides in the top six that the Gunners had positive results against last season. Arsenal’s record against the top sides in the Premier League is one of the major reasons the club continues to falter in a title bid. Confidence in such matches is key, and it’s that confidence gained from the Community Shield win that allowed Arsenal to beat City in the league for the first time since 2012. That and a very surprising change in approach from Arsene Wenger.
Chelsea are the opponents in Sunday’s Community Shield and much will be made about Arsene Wenger vs. Jose Mourinho, Cesc Fabregas vs. the Gunners part three, Petr Cech vs. Chelsea part one and just how much this game will impact each side’s start to the season. Many would likely dismiss a Chelsea loss because they have the ultimate motivator in Jose Mourinho, and because one could say they are a bit behind in their preparation having played one less game. Arsenal, however, won’t hear the end of it.
A preseason tour that has seen them beat teams such as Everton, Lyon and Wolfsburg means that a now familiar feeling of positivity surrounds the Emirates to start the season. A loss to Chelsea, despite the obvious lack of importance of the Community Shield, will have the media, fans and, to some degree, the players questioning themselves.
This Arsenal squad will no longer fear trips to Manchester and will continue hold the upper hand on the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool for now. It’s Chelsea that still sends shivers down the spine.
With the Community Shield the Gunners have a chance to continue what has been a solid preseason with an important mental victory. Jose Mourinho may play his mind games beforehand but that doesn’t mean he isn’t worried. The second half of the 2014-15 season was a showcase for what a confident and mostly healthy Arsenal squad can do. Mourinho won’t want his team to be the one that galvanized a side who could very well dethrone him.