By, Ugo Nwogwugwu


Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea (Arsenal win the penalty shootout 4-1)

In the weeks leading up to the 2017 Community Shield clash between Arsenal and Chelsea, the media focus had not been on the clubs’ pre-season preparations, but on one of the craziest transfer windows in football history. Both this fixture’s competitors broke their transfer records this window, to make strikers Alexander Lacazette (£52m) and Alvaro Morata (£58m potentially going up to 70m) the most expensive Arsenal and Chelsea players ever.

Both clubs had also experienced problems holding on to key players. Chelsea top scorer Diego Costa and midfield linchpin Nemanja Matic were out of the squad, one waiting to be sold the other transferred to a direct rival. The club had also sold and loaned out eighteen other squad and youth players, but with only four replacements signed by kick off for this game. Arsenal had their own problems getting top players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to commit to new contracts.

Arsenal started without Sanchez, Ozil, Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey for the Community Shield, while Chelsea were without Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko, recovering from injury and surgery respectively. Arsene Wenger picked new man Lacazette to start up top, but Chelsea manager Antonio Conte continued to show an ability to make the hard choices, leaving Alvaro Morata on the bench for the first significant tie of the season.

Arsenal Team

Cech, Bellerin, Holding, Mertesacker (Kolasinac), Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elneny, Xhaka, Welbeck, Iwobi (Walcott), Lacazette (Giroud)

Subs Ospina, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Nelson, Walcott, Giroud

Chelsea Team

Courtois, Moses, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Alonso (Rudiger), Fabregas, Kante, Willian (Musonda), Pedro, Batshuayi (Morata)

Subs Caballero, Christensen, Rudiger, Boga, Scott, Musonda, Morata

Big Moments

Arsenal tested Chelsea’s defence quite a few times early on in the game. New man Lacazette narrowly missed a low Iwobi pass just across the face of goal. Danny Welbeck headed another great cross straight at Chelsea keeper Courtois. Cesar Azpilicueta got caught in possession by Welbeck, who then went down under pressure from the full back, earning Azpilicueta a yellow card on thirteen minutes. Bellerin was also booked shortly after for a late, studs up challenge on Marcos Alonso.

Chelsea weathered the storm though, and began to make a few opportunities themselves – Pedro, Batshuayi and Willian getting into good positions but being crowded out by Arsenal’s defence, not quite getting their shots off. Arsenal then hit back on the counter, creating their best chance of the first half. Bellerin found Welbeck out on the left with a cross-field pass. Welbeck advanced and should have cut in and taken a shot himself, but unselfishly laid up the ball for Lacazette, who curled a shot round Cahill and Courtois, but only struck the post.

During a Chelsea corner about halfway through the opening period, Gary Cahill unintentionally caught Mertesacker in the face with an elbow. After some treatment for a bad cut above his eye, Mertesacker came off the pitch for new signing Sead Kolasinac.

On 35 minutes Chelsea almost caught the Arsenal defence off guard, Willian finding “lone ranger” Pedro unmarked out wide on the left. Rather than squaring for Batshuayi though, Pedro decided to try for goal himself, but only forced a save from Petr Cech. In the next exchange Willian intercepted the ball twice in Arsenal’s last third but got booked for simulation after appearing to trip over his own feet in the box.

After one final counterattack from Arsenal, Iwobi’s shot well saved and held by Courtois, both teams went in goalless at the break. It had been a good first half of football, but both sides were quite clearly suffering the absence of their best players. Overall, Arsenal had edged the first half of play, mostly negating Chelsea’s efforts by crowding the box when out of possession, then breaking forward at speed.

Arsenal 0 – 1 Chelsea

Knowing Antonio Conte though, the Chelsea players would come out of the break with a flea in their ear. And so it was that they blazed into the lead just 49 seconds after the restart. Sead Kolasinac had put the ball out, and Arsenal thought they had cleared the resulting corner. The ball fell to Gary Cahill however, who headed it back into the box. Victor Moses then got to the ball first, beating Arsenal’s offside trap, and rounding former teammate Cech to make it 1 – 0.

Just two minutes later, Chelsea threatened again off another corner. Fabregas put the ball over Cech from the by-line, but there were no Chelsea players at the far post to finish. Arsenal cleared to Batshuayi, but was obstructed by Welbeck and could only hook a weak shot straight at the keeper.

On fifty-five minutes the medical team were called on again, this time after a worrying clash of heads between Chelsea defenders Cahill and Luiz, off a Granit Xhaka corner. Both players were cleared to play a couple of minutes later though. Soon afterwards, Courtois made his first major save of the second half. Mohammed Elneny crossed from the right for Welbeck, but the ball curled dangerously inward towards the net. The Chelsea keeper had to make an acrobatic save to knock it over the bar. On sixty minutes, Elneny was involved again. This time he threaded a through ball past Chelsea’s defenders to Lacazette, but nothing came of his effort as the French striker was offside.

As play went back and forth, both Rob Holding and David Luiz did well to cut out crosses from Willian and Welbeck at either end. Azpilicueta also intercepted to divert another Arsenal cross towards Courtois, and the Belgian keeper had to make a hurried clearance to prevent Welbeck from taking advantage.

With twenty-five minutes of normal time left, Arsenal made a double substitution, Giroud and Walcott coming on for Lacazette and Iwobi respectively. Lacazette had played well to that point, but frankly Arsenal’s play had been crying out for Giroud’s height and finishing. Eight minutes later, Alvaro Morata made his competitive Chelsea debut, replacing Michy Batshuayi as central striker.

Arsenal continued to press hard, with Walcott making an early cross in from the right. The ball evaded Welbeck and almost made it all the way across to a waiting Giroud, but Moses cut it out to prevent a certain goal. Xhaka also forced another superb Courtois save with a thirty-yard howitzer. Chelsea got forward themselves on the break, Willian haring down the middle of the pitch, before making an outside-foot curler of a cross to Morata wide right. The ball was just slightly ahead of the Spanish striker though, and he could not keep his volley down and on target.

On 78 minutes Conte made another change, Antonio Rudiger on for Marcos Alonso. Rudiger slotted in at right center back, with Azpilicueta taking over from Alonso at left wing-back.

Arsenal 1 – 1 Chelsea

It looked like the game was winding down to a straightforward Chelsea 1 – 0 win, when Pedro made a late challenge from behind on Elneny, making contact with the back of the Arsenal player’s leg. The referee chose to show a red rather than a yellow, and Chelsea were down to ten men. As if that wasn’t enough drama though, Chelsea’s defence went completely to sleep on the resulting free kick. Granit Xhaka crossed for Kolasinac, who lost Rudiger on the right, then raced through to head in an 82nd minute equalizer.

Shortly afterwards, Hector Bellerin escaped being sent off as well. He had been dispossessed by Azpilicueta, before hauling the Chelsea left back down to prevent a counter. Up to that point the refereeing from Bobby Madley had been tough but fair, but it was difficult to understand how Bellerin was not sent off. Especially as the Pedro tackle got the strictest interpretation, and Azpilicueta was booked for a much lighter pull-back on Welbeck earlier in the game. Even with ten men though, Chelsea still managed to create one more good opportunity, from a Fabregas free kick in injury time, but Morata’s header was wrongly ruled offside.

And so it went to penalties. Arsenal took their penalties coolly and well, Walcott, Monreal and Oxlade-Chamberlain all placing their goals perfectly. Chelsea struggled badly though. Team captain Gary Cahill scored their first penalty, but Thibaut Courtois blazed over, and Morata sent his own attempt wide. Arsenal were 3 – 1 up and only needed one more goal to win it. The decider fell to Olivier Giroud, who made no mistake, scoring to his right as Courtois went in the opposite direction.

 

Thumbnail image courtesy of: Barrington Coombs/EMPICS Sport

 

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By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @Aryhorblueblood)


Wembley Stadium/August 6, 2017

After being involved in the last game of the 2016/2017 Premier League season, it’s only fitting that Arsenal vs. Chelsea gets the honour to usher us into the 2017/2018 Premier League season. The Community Shield is the traditional curtain-raiser for the English season and this year pits Chelsea against Arsenal, the League and FA Cup winners respectively from the previous campaign. The FA has announced that should the game go into a shootout the ABBA shootout system would be introduced for the first time so I guess we might see how that plays out. These two locked horns recently, albeit in a preseason friendly, that took place at China’s Bird Nest Stadium with Chelsea running out comfortable 3-0 winners; Willian and Batshuayi (2) with the goals. The Community Shield represents the last opportunity for both Antonio Conte and Arsene Wenger to drill their squads into shape in readiness for the new season with as many as six substitutions allowed.

History

This fixture has come about just twice before, first in 2005 and the last just two years ago in 2015, with both teams having a victory apiece. In August 2005, after Chelsea’s first League title for fifty years and Arsenal’s triumph in the FA Cup against Manchester United, Chelsea faced Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff with Mourinho’s Chelsea coming out tops through two poacher’s goal from the scourge of Arsenal, Didier Drogba, with Cesc Fabregas getting what proved to be a mere consolation for Arsenal . Arsene Wenger got a measure of revenge back from Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the 2015 edition with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting the match winner in the second half of an uninspiring game for the neutrals. The only thing of note in that match at Wembley was that it was the first time Chelsea Legend, Petr Cech lined up against the Blues.

Team Breakdowns

 Chelsea

Antonio Conte will surely be having a rethink about some of our loan contingent that was in the squad that traveled to Asia for our preseason tour, because I think some of them have played themselves into contention. Jeremie Boga, Lewis Baker and Charly Musonda surely took their chances in Asia and I wouldn’t be surprised if the trio were to stay on with the squad for the season and not go out on loans. Pedro was back in training, albeit with a protective mask, after his multiple fractures against Arsenal in China and might get a run out against Arsenal on Sunday. However this game will come too soon for the duo of Eden Hazard and Timoue Bakayoko who are still on the road to full fitness. With Conte stating that Alvaro Morata needs to improve his fitness he might decide to give Michy Batshuayi the chance to continue his hot streak in front of goal with support from Willian and one of Morata/Pedro/Boga and Musonda. The rest of the team should be straight forward enough with the only exception being where and how Antonio Rudiger fits in. With Victor Moses set to miss our first Premier League game against Burnley, Rudiger might get the chance to replace him at wingback while Azpilicueta keeps his place at RCB or maybe Dave will deputise at wingback with Rudiger coming in at RCB/LCB.

Injuries: Eden Hazard (Ankle) – Out; Timoue Bakayoko (Knee) – Out; Pedro (Facial Fracture) – Doubt.

Last 5 matches: LLWLW

 Arsenal

Arsene Wenger will surely welcome the chance to play Laurent Koscielny even if he won’t be able to call on his best CB for the first two Premier League games. Shokdran Mustafi will also be in contention for a place in the team even though he’ll be short on match fitness having been given an extended leave after his involvement in Germany’s Confederations’ Cup triumph. Arsene Wenger seem very confident about Alexis Sanchez remaining at the Emirates Stadium by the close of the transfer window but I’m sure he won’t be as confident about starting him against Chelsea on Sunday, the Chilean having only retuned to training on Wednesday following his involvement in the Confederations’ Cup and a bout of flu. With record signing Alexander Lacazette sidelined, Wenger will be forced to turn to one of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and soon-to-be former Arsenal striker Lucas Perez. Wenger has stated he’ll continue with the three at the back set up with which he finished last season, whether he has the team to sustain that system over the course of a full season is yet to be seen.

Injuries: Santi Cazorla (Ankle) – Out; Gabriel Paulista (MCL) – Out; Jack Wilshere (Ankle) – Out; Francis Coquelin (Muscle Strain) – Doubtful; Mesut Ozil (Thigh) – Doubtful; Aaron Ramsey (Muscle) – Doubtful.

 Last 5 matches: LWLDW

3 Matchups to Watch

Cesc Fabregas vs. Granit Xhaka

Fabregas has been involved from the start in all of our four preseason games so far and will likely continue to partner N’Golo Kante in midfield, and if that’s the case he’s going to be up against the tough-tackling Swiss. Cesc always has an assist in him if given the chance and space to pick his passes but Xhaka will be looking to deny him the space needed to operate. This should be an interesting duel.

Victor Moses vs. Mesut Ozil

Victor Moses will have one of the most difficult tasks of the Chelsea players on Sunday which is limiting the impact of the German maestro. Wenger usually plays Ozil at the left of his front three in his new found 3-4-2-1 formation. Ozil is not the fastest player around but he’s one of the most dangerous with the ball at his feet. Moses will have to pay close attention to him because Ozil has been known to drift in-field to wreak havoc if it becomes necessary and he has a killer pass in him every game.

David Luiz vs. Olivier Giroud

With Lacazette side-lined Wenger will be looking up to Giroud for goals on Sunday and David Luiz must be at the top of his game because the Frenchman is out to prove to his coach that he still deserve a place in the team in spite of the addition of his record-signing countryman.

Conclusion

If the FA Cup final is anything to go by, then Arsene Wenger might decide again to cede possession to Chelsea and look to catch us on the counter but I trust Antonio Conte would have learned one or two lessons of his own from that game in May. I expect this to be an open but tactical game with it coming so close to the beginning of the season. Fringe players will see this as an opportunity to impress ahead of the new season while established players will be looking to avoid any injuries that might disrupt their seasons. In all, this should be an exciting and interesting game of football for the neutrals which. I think Chelsea will have enough in them to get the piece. The first piece of silverware of the season is coming to Stamford Bridge! Until next week, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High Blues!

 

Thumbnail image courtesy of: Pinnacle Sports

 

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