Both Chelsea and Arsenal began their respective seasons at Wembley Stadium in the traditional curtain raiser which is the Community Shield. Chelsea, as expected, played their strongest available eleven after Antonio Conte reiterated that the fixture is competitive. Record signing Alvaro Morata was on the bench due to Michy Batshuayi’s impressive pre-season form while it was already known that Bakayoko and Eden Hazard would miss this game due to injury. Chelsea’s bench was youthful with names such as Charly Musonda and Jeremie Boga but cannot be considered a shock as the Blues simply do not have the numbers to choose a competitive bench. Youngster Kyle Scott was amongst the substitutes, ahead of the likes of Lewis Baker which suggests Baker will be heading out on loan to reportedly an English club.
Journalist, Nizaar Kinsella confirmed this loan will happen but is stalling due to Chelsea’s prolonged search for a centre midfielder. Whereas, Arsenal handed a debut to £52 million club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette but the significant news was that Alexis Sanchez, Shkodran Mustafi Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were absent from the matchday squad. Alexis and Mustafi injured due to a late return to pre-season following the Confederations Cup while Ozil and Ramsey were injured.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill (captain); Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Batshuayi, Pedro.
Substitutes: Caballero, Rudiger, Morata, Musonda, Christensen, Scott, Boga.
Arsenal: (3-4-3): Cech; Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal; Bellerin, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Iwobi, Lacazette, Welbeck.
Substitutes: Ospina, Giroud, Walcott, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Nelson, Willock.
Similar to the FA Cup final, Arsenal began on the front foot and the first 30 minutes were not memorable from a Chelsea perspective. Chelsea lacked a player of Matic’s calibre, someone who could control the game. Fabregas and Kante were struggling as a midfield pairing. There wasn’t much goal mouth action in the early stages of the game apart from Lacazette beating Courtois but hitting the outside of the post. Whilst the Community Shield is described as a friendly, it was a feisty affair with Marcos Alonso and Hector Bellerin receiving bookings for intense challenges. Per Mertesacker was replaced by Bosnian, Sead Kolasinac after 30 minutes, following a collision with Chelsea captain Gary Cahill. The first half was drab to say the least with the most notable Chelsea moment coming from Willian who was wrongly booked for tripping over his feet in the box.
Half time: Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea.
Chelsea must’ve received some harsh words following a despondent first half from Antonio Conte. The team was playing with a greater intensity. Redeeming himself from his embarrassing sending off in the FA Cup Final, Victor Moses scored after latching onto a header towards goal from captain, Gary Cahill after 47 minutes. The Nigerian was composed in front of goal and coolly slotted the ball past former Chelsea goalkeeper, Petr Cech. Chelsea were in control of the match, with several substitutions taking the sting and intensity out of the glamorous affair at Wembley Stadium. A plethora of substitutions took the sting and intensity out of the game with Giroud and Walcott replacing Lacazette and Alex Iwobi on the hour. Batshuayi, who didn’t enhance his chances of leading the line against Burnley next weekend was replaced by £60 million man Alvaro Morata. Rudiger replaced Alonso after 79 minutes. There was a moment of quality, however, where Thibaut Courtois displayed agile reflexes in palming away Granit Xhaka’s stinging drive towards goal.
Despite Chelsea being in control of the fixture and looking like they will see the game out, Pedro stupidly got himself sent off on 80 minutes. A red card was the correct decision since it was a late, mistimed lunge on Elneny. To compound Chelsea’s woes even further, from the free-kick, Granit Xhaka whipped in a pristine ball and on his debut, Sead Kolasinac nodded past Thibaut Courtois from 6 yards out. 1-1 after 82 minutes. Both teams were looking to win with Walcott denied by Gary Cahill just as the Arsenal forward was about to pull the trigger and Morata headed past the post from a Fabregas free kick when the Spaniard should have done better.
It ended 1-1 after 90 minutes and would go straight to a penalty shootout. A draw was the perfect result for the FA since it would allow the new ‘ABBA’ system to be tested. ABBA is where Team A would take the first penalty and then Team B would take the next two. Following Team B’s two penalties, Team A would then take two. The system resembles the tiebreak in tennis and is designed to prevent an advantage for the team who goes first in the penalty shoot-out.
Gary Cahill, surprisingly, took the first penalty and scored but Theo Walcott and Nacho Monreal dispatched their efforts past the Belgian Courtois, handing Arsenal the advantage. Under the ABBA format, Chelsea would take the next two penalties and it was apparent that Thibaut Courtois was preparing to take Chelsea’s second. Perhaps he felt he could’ve dealt with Kolasinac’s header better so maybe it was a decision taken to redeem himself. Despite the good intention’s, Courtois ballooned his penalty over the bar- it looked like he was preparing for a goal kick, not a penalty. There is no way to describe Courtois’ penalty, other than to describe it as an extremely poor effort. Morata’s underwhelming appearance was compounded by a poor penalty which went past Petr Cech’s right-hand post. It was clearly advantage Arsenal where Alex Oxlade Chamberlain made it 3-1 in the shootout and Olivier Giroud secured the victory.
Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea (4-1 to Arsenal on penalties)
In sum, Arsenal probably deserved victory following the way they approached the game. In the first half, they were much quicker than Chelsea and it looked that the Far East activities took it out of the thin squad. To Chelsea’s credit, they did respond and produced a much better second half performance; it did look like the Blues would see the game out. Pedro’s sending off, like any dismissal, was a game-changer and Arsenal finished the stronger as it would be expected with 11 v 10. Gary Cahill and David Luiz had strong performances and as expected, N’Golo Kante had a solid 90 minutes under his belt. From an attacking perspective, both Batshuayi and Morata didn’t set the game alight; Morata’s cameo compounded by dragging his penalty wide.
What was most compounding was during the medal collection, where Antonio Conte refused to handshake Technical Director Michael Emenalo. It was an apparent sign that discontent is clear within the hierarchy at Chelsea FC and is something which worries fans immensely. Had Chelsea won 2 or, 3-0, then maybe the Board would’ve thought a lack of investment was permissible but maybe a defeat will produce the investment required. No doubt, Conte will work relentlessly on the training fields at Cobham but an improvement will be required ahead of the season opener at the Bridge against Burnley.