Forgive me for one moment, as I finally get a chance to write the following words. Arsenal Football Club have beaten a Jose Mourinho-led Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley, to win the Community Shield.
It was an interesting games for many points, Arsenal took their continued sharpness into this game that actually faded towards the end of the game against Chelsea’s onslaught for the last twenty minutes. Arsenal’s build up play was enjoyable to watch – which isn’t a term often able to be used when dealing with the well-drilled machine of Chelsea. Let’s look at the major talking points from an Arsenal fans perspective.
1) Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain’s MOTM Performance
I don’t agree with Michael Owen’s awarding to the Ox, however that doesn’t take away anything from the young Englishman’s performance. A well finished goal, assisted by a largely absent Walcott, (although if you’re going to one thing in a game, it’s either score or register an assist, so Walcott can sleep easy tonight). Chamberlain was a useful outlet for Arsenal during the game until his substitution for Mikel Arteta in the 77th minute. Cesar Azpilicueta didn’t necessarily struggle against him, however my assessment would be that The Ox was more effective offensively than the Spaniard was defensively, in key moments.
In a game where Arsenal channelled the organisational spirit that was first seen against Manchester City last season. They ceded 57% of the possession to Chelsea, most of which came in the second half. Chamberlain was forced to be more efficient with his possession and his good decision making in the final third showed us something we hadn’t often seen from Alex last year.
2) It seems the 0-2 win against Manchester City away last season wasn’t a fluke
Chelsea often start their play centrally, before playing forward passes out-wide either in-behind or for their wide players to latch onto & cross. Arsenal’s organisation during the game stopped them from playing this way for most of the game. With the back four moving in tandem, Ramsay & Cazorla sitting in a front 2 ahead and Coquelin filling any free spaces and chasing down the ball. Today’s performance was interesting to see, It seems that the penny may have finally dropped and this is how we are going to see Arsenal setting themselves up in order to protect a lead in important games. It’s a system that actually takes some inspiration from how Chelsea set up – with a flat back four, with Nemanja Matic & Cesc Fabregas sitting in front – allowing Willian or Ramires to buzz about defensively. As a fan, I’d be quite happy for Arsenal to go back to the old “One-Nil, to the Arsenal” ways of George Graham for the big games. We can win pretty against the smaller teams.
3) Once again, the ‘popular’ media will say Mesut Ozil had no impact.
And what utter rubbish that sentiment is. Playing against a double-pivot system and starting from a left-sided berth. Ozil once again had the sort of game that means half the population will say he went missing – and the other half will say he did what Ozil does best. I liken his role within Arsenal to how Luka Modric played at Tottenham or Toni Kroos plays for Real Madrid- the fooballing metronome. He kept the ball when he wasn’t expected to stroll away with the ball, and interestingly enough – he was going into aerial challenges when required and actually won a couple. A facet of his game today I hadn’t personally seen him attempt last season.
Pundits that only see goals scored & assists registered when analysing players will continue to take aim at Ozil until the day he hangs up his Arsenal shirt. Combined with Santi Cazorla, Arsenal have the best two players in the league when it comes to ball-retention.
4) Francis Coquelin’s stock rose sharply during this game.
My personal Man of the Match, we saw the typical tenacity, bite and sheer-force of will that Coquelin has established himself as. However, we also saw today an answer to the following statement “Coquelin’s good defensively, but he can’t -play- like an Arsenal player”. In all the calls for reinforcement in the Arsenal defensive midfield area this summer, there’s been a recurring request for ‘someone who can, aside from do the defensive side of things, bring the ball out & spray quick passes forward’. Coquelin was spraying passes about left-right and center this afternoon, the cherry on top was a delightful long-range pass from the centre circle to Ozil near Chelsea’s corner flag.
This sort of enhancement to his game, if it continues, will see Coquelin quickly catapult himself to the higher-echelon of current players in his role. It also however brings a worry to the fore, if Coquelin gets injured, there is no-one in the Arsenal squad who can like-for-like replace what he brings. If you were to combine Mathieu Flamini & Mikel Arteta into a single player, you would get close – but that’s obviously fantasy. The strongest Arsenal performer on the day, but already a crutch that if it should fall – could seriously trip up Arsenal’s form.
5) Does this win give any insight into how the Premier League version of this fixture will play out?
I think it will certainly have no effect on how Jose Mourinho approaches his preparation for the league fixtures against Arsenal both home & away. It’s well documented how the Portuguese manager thinks and plans for games and I doubt that will be changed after one game. From an Arsenal standpoint, it will shatter the no-win curse that has long plagued the team against their London-counterparts in blue. As the character of the team has noticeably grown since and during the last two FA Cup wins, dispelling any and all unwanted runs, titles and ‘curses’ will only serve the squad, the club and the fans in a positive way. Hopefully no longer will Arsenal simply roll over when Chelsea come to town, or in the big-games against big opponents during the season. Against a revitalised Manchester United or wounded Manchester City – the ability to grind out a win will pull Arsenal above their rivals and give them a real chance for league silverware.