The first piece of silverware in the English Premier League season has gone to Arsenal after the reigning FA Cup champions defeated last season’s title winners Chelsea on penalties to claim the FA Community Shield.
The Blues led early in the fixture after Victor Moses’ opening goal. However, Arsenal equalised thanks to new signing Sead Kolasinac. The match went to penalties where Arsenal held their nerve, scoring four times from the spot to Chelsea’s one.
With the new season kicking off next weekend and Arsene Wenger striking first blood in the trophy department, here are three lessons learned from the FA Community Shield.
1. Value in free transfers
Last year, Liverpool proved their was value in free transfers despite teams spending over the odds for defenders that didn’t pan out (paging John Stones…). The Reds signed Joel Matip on a free from Schalke and he went on to have a great year.
Arsenal have tapped the free agent market this summer and, like Liverpool, took a former Schalke player. Sead Kolasinac came on as a second half sub and scored the equaliser from a set piece. He was brilliant in defence as well with a 93% pass success rate and three tackles wom. He was a part of the Bundesliga team of the season in 2016-17 and led all defenders in assists. There must be something in the water in Gelsenkirchen.
2. Conte’s penalty takers need practice
It was a complete shock that Chelsea’s second penalty taker was goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. His shot hasn’t landed yet after he skied it over the crossbar. What was even more shocking, however, was the awful penalty that £55 million transfer striker Alvaro Morata pulled wide.
After the match, Antonio Conte did explain just why Courtois took a shot from 12-yards.
“Courtois is one of the best players to kick a penalty. If you have a player that shows you during training to be one of the best, you pick him to shoot a penalty. Don’t forget also that Morata is a forward and he did the same,” Conte explained.
Morata has to be the main man this season, something he has never been. His 15 minutes on Sunday didn’t show much, despite winning four aerials during his short stint.
3. Arsenal have depth
Arsenal may have had two teens on the bench, but the Gunners look far deeper in than top four rivals Liverpool, Manchester United and even Chelsea.
Danny Welbeck started up front with new signing Alexandre Lacazette, and Olivier Giroud was on the bench. Giroud scored the decisive penalty.
The team had man of the match Granite Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny in midfield. Meanwhile the defence was pieced together after Per Mertesacker went off after having his eyebrow split and requiring a number of stitches. But the quality of the individuals shined through at the back.
Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez did not dress for the match for various reasons. If Wenger can keep Sanchez and doesn’t sell Giroud as rumoured, Arsenal have a legitimate shot at winning the Premier League this season; especially if Wenger only plays the fringe players in the Europa League’s group stage.
The FA Community Shield is often overlooked as just a preseason friendly, but the fact is, silverware is up for grabs. And Arsenal have claimed the first piece this season.