Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0 (Community Shield)

Arsenal won the Community Shield for the second time in as many years after defeating Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley on Sunday. In fact, this was the Gunners' fourth trophy in just over 2 months. It may only be a pre-season friendly, but there is no doubt that their defeat of the Premier League reigning champions will help boost their belief ahead of a new campaign. For us, supporters, beating Mourinho and Chelsea was simply priceless. We are also happy for Arsene Wenger as he finally ended his winless run against the Portuguese tactician after 13 unsuccessful attempts.

Arsene Wenger fielded a strongest possible side against Chelsea in the absence of Alexis Sanchez, who was still on holiday after his involvement in Chile national team's successful Copa America campaign. One of intriguing points in the team selection was that Hector Bellerin now comes in front of experienced Mathieu Debuchy. Perhaps, the young Spanish full-back was chosen for his pace up against Eden Hazard. Theo Walcott got the nod ahead of Olivier Giroud, who dropped to the bench. Wenger explained his selection by stating that he wanted to use Theo's pace to go in behind the Chelsea defence, but we thought that Giroud would be picked for exactly opposite reasons, given that the Chelsea bus would be unlikely to leave any space to run in behind. Jack Wilshere did not even make the bench as he suffered an ankle problem in training the day before, which triggered the media's knee-jerk reaction. However, the boss played it down as he stated the injury is a matter of days. The more worrying thing for us is, though, Danny Welbeck's knee injury, which has been keeping him on the sidelines since the end of April. As a result of these injuries to attacking players, combined with his encouraging showing in the Emirates Cup against Lyon, Alex Iwobi earned his place on the bench alongside with Emi Martinez, Gabriel, Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs and Mikel Arteta.

Above all these talking points, the major focus was on Petr Cech's first encounter with his old club. He was untroubled for the large part of the game as Chelsea registered only 2 shots on target, but when he was called upon he made a stunning save to deny Oscar's goal-bound free-kick. Wenger acknowledged Cech's influence on his ex-team mates, stating "they felt that to score against him they had to score the perfect goal. When you have that sometimes you want to try too hard. It happened especially with Eden Hazard when he had that chance in the box." The new signing's experience and calming and commanding presence in the box were also highly appreciated by his new team-mates. He was an absolute steal for £10 million. We have started to believe what John Terry said. Cech could be worth 15 points a season for us.

Arsenal went into the game on the back of their fine pre-season form. They looked sharp and fit for this time of the year, so this game was somewhat disappointing for us. However, after all, we were up against the champions who conceded fewer goals than any other Premier League team last season. Besides, the Gunners' trade-mark one-touch passing was breath-taking in patches. One of those moves ended with the Ox's wonder strike.

Mourinho accused us of sacrificing our attacking football for the win, stating that Arsenal had left their football philosophy in the dressing room, but do we care? Arsene Wenger brought on Arteta in the 77th minute and Gibbs in the 81st minute to replace the Ox and Özil, respectively. Although one of the reasons behind these defence-oriented substitutions was that we did not have many attacking options left on the bench after Giroud was introduced in the 65th minute for Walcott, Wenger's intention was clear to see out the victory. This was our best chance to overcome Chelsea in a few years. If this had been a league game during the season, Wenger's side would have been highly praised for their dogged performance, with everybody citing the cliché that grinding out the result is champions' trait. (They could have defended better, though. They lost possession  in a dangerous area too often for our liking.) In past years, all the outfield players would have been bombing forward in their search for a second goal to kill off the game, thus making them vulnerable to counter attacks. We were happy to see their more mature approach to the game. Stats depicted a different game to our typical style of passing football based on dominant possession, with Chelsea holding a larger share of possession at 57% and superior passing accuracy (80% against our 75%). However, we had more shots on target (5) and we had better chances with both Cazorla and Gibbs through on goal. 

Another positive was the Ox's development. He was named Man of the Match by the majority of the media (except stats-based Whoscored.com, which gave Laurant Koscielny the highest rating of all players on the pitch). He has been our game changer in this pre-season. His performances have been lacking one factor, end-products, up till the end of last season. He had only 3 goals to his name last season and amazingly, all of his previous 13 goals came at the Emirates, but signs are encouraging ahead of the new campaign.

The media largely remain sceptical about the claim that this win has boosted Arsenal's title credential. It is true that last year's comfortable 3-0 victory over Manuel Pellegrini's under-strength side turned out to be a false dawn. However, all the players have been singing from the same hymn sheet since the end of last season, emphasising that they will not repeat last season's poor start. We are hopeful that they will get off to a strong start this time around.

Players ratings

Cech: 7
Kept a clean sheet. Bossed his area well and made an excellent save from Hazard

Bellerin: 6

He was often dragged into the centre and caught out of position.

Metesacker: 7
Did not put a foot wrong.

Koscielny: 8
Kept Remy, Hazard, and Falcao in his pocket throughout the game. Made an amazing 16 clearances.

Monreal: 7

Made 1 tackle, 6 interceptions, and 6 clearance. Assured display.

Coquelin: 7
Played an integral part of the team. Booked.

Ramsey: 7 

Had a good game in his preferred central position. Got in great positions, but unfortunately no end-product. Unlucky his follow-up effort was blocked. Made 3 tackles.

Cazorla: 7
Had 2 shots, one of which was on target. Made 2 key passes.

Özil: 7
He showed a glimpse of his skills and vision and was at the heart of our attacking movements, but did not make an outstanding impression. Still created 3 chances, though.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 8

Widely regarded as Man of the Match. Scored the decisive goal. His passing success rate of 89.5% was impressive when the team average was lower than usual at 75%. Had 2 shots, both of which were on target. 

Walcott: 7
Did not get enough service to make impression, but claimed an assist for the Ox's goal.


Giroud: 6
Replaced Theo in the 65th minute. Nearly made a difference with his first touch, when the Ox's low cross found him at far post, but the angle was too tight when he made a contact with the ball. Had another glorious chance in the 6-yard box, but he was out of balance. Had 3 shots, none of which was on target. 

Arteta: 6
Came off the bench to replace the goalscorer in the 77th minute. His display in this pre-season has been unconvincing to say the least. We need a better cover for Coquelin.

Gibbs: 6
Replaced Ozil in the 81st minute. Had a one-on-one chance with Courtois, but his shot was easily saved by the keeper.

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