The top European teams have had ample time to get their ducks in a row and settle the transfers they think are necessary to help them get some silverware in the coming season. This year’s Community Shield will be contested by two London clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea, both with vastly differing fortunes at present.
Chelsea, current League Champions, have had a somewhat disappointing transfer window and don’t look to necessarily be favorites, while Arsenal are sitting in a slump after their 5th place finish kept them out of the Champions League for the first time in two decades. For Chelsea this match might provide an indication of what shape they’re in to defend their title, and for Arsenal it will likely be an indication of how hard they’re going to need to fight to get back into Europe’s elite competition.
We’re going to have a look at how the two sides will likely line up and how the game will play out.
The first interesting development from a tactical perspective is that Arsene Wenger has said he intends to use the 3-5- 2 formation for the coming season. It’s rather poetic that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte changed Chelsea’s fortunes by switching to the 3-5- 2 after suffering a resounding defeat to Arsenal in the league last season. Using three center backs offers good defensive stability while also allowing more freedom for the wing-backs on the flank to press forward and assist the attack. Chelsea are now practiced hands at this formation, while Arsenal may experience some growing pains as they’ve only adopted it more recently.
Arsenal are definitely at a disadvantage where defence is concerned, as their defenders have not only just recently adapted to a new formation, but their fitness also isn’t that impressive. Koscielny, Mustafi and Monreal are the ideal set, but Mustafi is a fitness-doubt so someone else will have to deputise in his position. Chelsea on the other hand will be able to play David Luiz, Cahill and Azpilicueta, all of whom have had exposure to the three center back system and will be more comfortable with its requirements. Cahill and David Luiz aren’t the fastest players, though, so Arsenal’s attacking pace will have to be monitored carefully to avoid having the center backs isolated and potentially exposed.
Midfield is another area where Chelsea are most likely to dominate, primarily because the have the seemingly three-lunged N’Golo Kante in their ranks. The Frenchman’s praises have been sung far and wide over the last two seasons due to his balance of impressive work rate and pragmatic passing. He could be joined by new arrival Tiemoue Bakayoko, another young French midfielder not unlike Kante in terms of work-rate. Arsenal’s midfield options are less concrete and will have a tough time dealing with the physicality of Chelsea’s, but Granit Xhaka, Arsenal’s own self-proclaimed enforcer could stake a claim to a starting position if he fares well against Chelsea. Aaron Ramsey is the most likely companion to Xhaka, but his recent performances haven’t been inspiring so he’s likely to struggle if Chelsea’s duo are at their industrious best.
Arsenal’s attack is where they could edge Chelsea out, as the Gunners’ attack is geared to exploit precisely the weaknesses Chelsea’s defence could exhibit. Cahill and Luiz are relatively slow and weak to being run behind, something new Arsenal hitman Alexandre Lacazette will only be too happy to do. This will also be an ideal opportunity to see how Alexis Sanchez combines with Lacazette, should he be fit enough to make an appearance. Chelsea’s attack is formidable, too, potentially featuring their own newest #9, Alvaro Morata. Morata is a typical Premier League center forward, physically imposing, a good touch and a predator’s instinct for goal. If Chelsea’s midfield and fellow forwards can create enough chances, Morata will put them away – the young Spaniard had one of the best conversion rates in Europe last season, in the same echelon as both Messi and Ronaldo. Arsenal’s pace and creativity should pose more of a threat, but the defending champions shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Lacazette Vs. David Luiz/Gary Cahill: The speedy new arrival is extremely prolific in front of goal, combining his acceleration with composed finishing. Arsenal have the benefit of gifted passers in Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, who could both easily unlock Chelsea’s slower defence and play Lacazette into dangerous positions.
Alvaro Morata/Michy Batshuayi Vs. Monreal/Koscielny: Arsenal can occasionally be weak in the air due to the lack of physicality of their center backs, which might match up badly against the aerial proficiency of Chelsea’s selected striker, and even their defenders should there be a few set pieces.
Granit Xhaka Vs. N’Golo Kante: Xhaka has been billed as Arsenal’s midfielder controller, but he’ll need time and space to use his passing range – not things that are easy to come by with Kante roaming around. He could definitely have a tough afternoon ahead if Kante is on his game.
With the Premier League season a little less than a fortnight away, the potential title challengers will need to start preparing themselves for the grueling season ahead. The Community Shield provides a good opportunity for either of these rivals to inject a little bit of confidence into their squad with a win, but which one will take it; Chelsea’s defensive solidity or Arsenal’s mercurial attack? Let us know what you think!
Our predicted Score: 2-1
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