LONDON — On a glorious day at Wembley Stadium, London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal clashed in England’s capital for the Community Shield.
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Arsenal ran out 1-0 winners thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s stunning strike in the first half, with Chelsea struggling to break down a stubborn Gunners outfit despite having more attempts at goal and more possession.
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Arsene Wenger secured his first win against Jose Mourinho at the 14 attempt, with the Gunners securing their second-straight Community Shield triumph and fourth-straight trophy in the past 12 months from a Wembley final.
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Here’s what we learned from the traditional curtain-raiser of the domestic season.
WENGER FINALLY OUT-MOURINHO’S, MOURINHO
Hanging out in the Wembley sunshine for the entirety of the game, Mourinho stood on the edge of his technical area with either his hands behind his back or folded as he sized up his team. For the first half, he was not impressed, as Chelsea labored and Arsenal had the cutting edge in the final-third. Eden Hazard was shackled by Hector Bellerin on the flank and then whenever he stepped inside, Francis Coquelin shut him down. After 14 attempts, Wenger finally had his first victory over Mourinho as a manager with the Frenchman going for tactics we saw him develop in the second half of last season.
In many ways, Wenger beat Mourinho at his own game. He deployed Coquelin as a true holding midfielder in the second half of last season to great success, as away from home the Gunners could stop the attacking threats of the opposition but still possessed enough quality to unlock the opposition. Arsenal’s naive nature has dissipated as Wenger can now grind out wins instead of playing “sexy football” for the sake of it. Wenger beat the master of disruption at his own game with late subs seeing the defensive duo of Gibbs and Arteta replace attacking Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil, as he’s finally figured out how to beat a Mourinho side. When you have a goalkeeper like ex-Chelsea stopper Petr Cech — playing against Chelsea for the first time since he left them after an 11-year spell where he won it all at Stamford Bridge — it always makes it easier to defend an early lead. Cech made a fine save from an Oscar free kick in the second half and his calming presence exuded confidence in Arsenal’s backline. He already looks like a superb signing for the Gunners.
CHELSEA’S STRIKER SHORTAGE STILL A WORRY
Starting up front for Chelsea on Sunday, Loic Remy was lost up top. The Frenchman played on the shoulder of Arsenal’s last defender but Chelsea just couldn’t find his lingering runs and he was replaced at half time with Radamel Falcao. With Diego Costa not included in the squad due to his reoccurring hamstring issues, the Blues look devoid up options in attack heading into the first week of the season. Mourinho has taken a chance on Falcao following his dismal loan spell at Manchester United last season, but after coming on at half time he looked considerably sharper than Remy and if Costa is missing for the start of the PL season, you’d expect Falcao to start in his place. With Costa’s fitness issues a concern, will Chelsea dip into the market to sign a new striker between now and the end of the summer transfer window on Sept. 1?
“[We have] three top strikers. If one is injured, we have two. No concerns, no protections,” Mourinho said in the build-up to this game. “It’s a position where we’re very strong. I’m not worried, match after match, and we have a fantastic group of strikers so no problem.”
Jose, are you sure?
CAZORLA WASTED ON THE WING; WALCOTT AN OPTION UP TOP
Eyebrows were raised when Santi Cazorla lined up on the left of midfield for Arsenal, as Coquelin was partnered by Aaron Ramsey in the center. After his heroic second half of last season in a deeper central role, Cazorla has become one of the first names on the teamsheet for Wenger. Playing with a 4-2-3-1 formation Cazorla, Chamberlain and Ozil interchanged in the three attacking midfield positions, but Cazorla wasn’t able to dictate the tempo of the game. Ramsey hasn’t hidden his desire to play in his preferred central role, but is the Welshman a better option than Cazorla alongside Coquelin? Then of course, you have Jack Wilshere too. Wenger has options in the middle but shunting Cazorla out to the left lessened his impact on the match.
Theo Walcott signed a lucrative new four-year deal at Arsenal this week, reportedly for $218,000 per week, and the England international is extremely important for Wenger. Not just because the 26-year-old is now Arsenal’s longest serving player in the current squad, but because he can play either up top or out wide. All the talk this summer has been about Wenger spending outrageous money on a new top-class striker and although Walcott’s strikerate hasn’t been outstanding (76 goals in 300 appearances) if he gets a decent run up top he will deliver. He set up Oxlade-Chamberlain for Arsenal’s goal and was replaced by Olivier Giroud for the final 25 minutes. Walcott’s biggest problem is staying fit but if he can do that, Wenger has three classy strikers in Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Walcott. For now, Arsenal’s biggest problem has been solved.