Aug 2nd, 2015 by 'holic
Engaged elsewhere earlier today, I have yet to take in the full story of the Community Shield defeat of the bus stop in Fulham. I am therefore indebted to our very own Lars who answered a call for help after the event and summarised our defeat of the Champions at Wembley, despite doubtless having sunk more alcohol than I did this afternoon. The result follows, and made me smile. Thanks Lars, I owe you. Doubtless the invoice will be for beer!
In the past 16 or so months, Arsenal have visited Wembley six times. Six times have we emerged victorious, and while the Community Shield may rank somewhere marginally above the Emirates Cup and similar in importance it is still four trophies won in those six matches. Winning begets winning, they say, and we can only hope that turns out to be true in the season ahead.
In the buildup to this game, both managers had pointed out that while officially a friendly, a game like this always becomes a little more than a regular pre-season game. This was evident from the start as players on both sides went into challenges with far more conviction than is normal in friendlies. Jose Mourinho had set up his team to try his usual tactic of stifling the opposition and played both Matic and Ramires in front of the back five, and it was clear that they played to not concede and nick something on the break.
Initially it worked quite well, but Arsenal slowly got their game going and upped the tempo and Mesut Özil was instrumental to this with a couple of quick one-touch passes to find players already on the move, and in the 24th minute the deadlock was broken. The ball was won on the left side and found it’s way to Mesut Özil who ran with it for a bit looking like he was going to continue down the wing, and when several Chelsea players started to converge on him he made a quick pass inside, completely wrongfooting several Chelsea players. The pass reached Theo Walcott and he in turn quickly found Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who now found himself in acres of space and only Azpilicueta to beat to have a shot on goal. The Ox, by some quick footwork, created some space inside and then fired a rocket of a left-footed shot into the top corner giving the keeper absolutely no chance. The most famous of Arsenal scorelines had been established.
Going a goal behind is not what Mourhinho teams are set up to do, so this forced them to open up and go on the attack but a combination of solid Arsenal defending and, on the one occasion Chelsea did create something, an absolutely terrible headed finish by Ramires who should at least have hit the target kept Chelsea out. Meanwhile, at the other end Arsenal should perhaps have done better on at least two occasions where we could have had players clean through on goal with better final touches but 1-0 it was at half time.
The second half saw Mourinho replace the totally invisible (other than when he was flagged off for offside on numerous occasions) Loic Remy with Radamel Falcao in an attempt to strengthen the attack – but in all honesty he may as well not have bothered. Far be it from me to judge Falcao from only 45 minutes for a new team, but if anything he looked even worse than he did for ManU last season. A heavy first touch, slow, remarkably easily pushed off the ball and generally not contributing anything at all. Pundits can say what they want, but I can certainly see Chelsea struggle to score if Diego Costa was to be out for any extended period of time.
For the most part of the second half, we sat back and soaked up the pressure. Only on one occasion did Chelsea break through our defensive wall and in all honesty they should probably have scored but Hazard, under some pressure from Koscielny, skied his effort from close range.
That proved to be their only real chance to score, though. From then on, Arsenal were closer to scoring a second than conceding, and Olivier Giroud who was subbed on for Theo Walcott missed two decent chances which on another day he could very well have scored two goals from. Chelsea were restricted to look for scraps from set pieces, and in all honestly I never really worried because we were rock solid on those and the closes Chelsea got was a weak header from quite far out from Kurt Zouma. It is remarkable how quickly Petr Cech seems to have settled in with Kos and the BFG in front of him, they have barely played together but look like they have been playing together for years.
In the closing minutes, both Santi Cazorla and Kieran Gibbs had great chances to put the game to bed but fair play to Courtois for some really fine goal keeping, particularly for the Gibbs chance where he was incredibly quick off his line to close down the angle for Kieran to aim at.
But 1-0 it ended, and we retained the Community Shield. It was far from a perfect performance, but it was a solid one and one thing we have too often lacked in later years is to be solid even when not firing on all cylinders for the duration of the game. Let us hope we can keep building on that solidity that started to take shape in the latter part of last season.
So in the end a deserved win, and while it was a nice one we now face the real deal. West Ham will visit our place next Sunday and it is now time to start focusing on that game. But as unimportant wins go, this was certainly a rather nice one!