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Wenger Hopes It's Cech Mate!
The Community Shield
The traditional curtain raiser to the English top level season is the FA Community Shield. There have been some exceptions over the years but usually the match is played between the Premier League Champions and the FA Cup winners and it heralds the end of preseason and sets the scene for the first round of Premier League fixtures, which this year begin on the 8th August. In seasons where the league champions have also won the FA Cup then the league runners up have taken part. The game rarely gives a clear indication of how the season will develop. Remember the 2013 game where Manchester United, then managed by David Moyes, won it but finished a pitiful 7th costing Moyes his job. United have held the trophy 20 times followed by Liverpool who have held it 15 times and proceeds from the match are given to charity or community initiatives, hence it's former name of the Charity Shield. A dispute with the Charity Commission in 2002 caused the competition to be renamed the Community Shield.
Charity has often been lacking in this match as there have been some hostile encounters on the pitch over the years. Roy Keane was once sent off in a match between Man Utd and Chelsea in 2000 and there was the famous fisticuffs incident between Liverpool's Kevin Keegan and Johnny Giles of Leeds Utd in 1974 (see YouTube clip below). The 2015 match is smouldering as well with Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, the League Champions, taking on Arsene Wenger's Arsenal side who won the FA Cup. It will be the 188th time the two sides have met in all competitions and currently Arsenal lead the head to head with 71 wins to Chelsea's 60. Recent results have favored Chelsea with Wenger failing to defeat Mourinho in 13 attempts. Chelsea won 6-0 in March 2014 in a Premier League match which was Arsene Wenger's 1,000 game and then last October in the Premier League Chelsea ran out 2-0 winners in a bad tempered affair where the two managers were involved in a confrontation on the touchline and both teams were fortunate to finish with 11 players. The last meeting was a dour 0-0 draw in April as Chelsea closed out the title but there is certainly no love lost between the two managers nor the players. Lets take a look at the two teams.
1974 Leeds Utd v Liverpool
Wenger v. Mourinho
Players In: Petr Cech (from Chelsea)
Players Out (major only): Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Abou Diaby (released), Wojciech Szcesny (Roma - Loan), Carl Jenkinson (West Ham - Loan)
Arsenal are the current holders of the Community Shield beating Manchester City 3-0 in 2014 making it the 13th time they had held the trophy. Over the summer, it could be said that Arsene Wenger has fallen into the old trap of not building on Arsenal's impressive showing of last season with goalkeeper Petr Cech being the only addition. However, it is quite an addition and area where Arsenal have lacked true quality since the days of David Seaman and Jens Lehman.
Cech played over 400 times for Chelsea and and was allowed to move to arch rivals Arsenal in view of his great service to the club and having been displaced by Belgian Thibaut Courtois. Cech is still a top class goalkeeper and it is somewhat ironic that he should find his first game being against his former club and Jose Mourinho will be hoping it does not come back to bite him. Known for his famous rugby style head guard, Cech is a commanding presence and at just 33, as a goalkeeper, he likely still has at least 5 years left at the top level.
Arsenal have enjoyed a successful preseason winning the Barclays Asia Trophy and the Emirates Cup, which is an annual preseason tournament held in London at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. They have scored 14 goals and conceded just 1 in the 4 games they played, winning all their matches. Notable victories against Everton (3-1) and Lyon (6-0) have set them up nicely for Sunday's first London Derby of the new season. They will likely be without their star player Alexis Sanchez, who only returned to training on the 3rd August after extended leave following his heroics with Chile at Copa America. It is hard to think he will be risked with Wenger likely to prefer holding him back until at least the Premier League opener against West Ham Utd. Danny Welbeck will also miss the match and is expected to not be available until at least match day 2 of the Premier League season. Other then that Arsenal should have a strong side available with Theo Walcot, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla all in fine preseason form. With the likes of Mertesacker, Oxlade Chamberlain, Ramsey, Ozil and Arteta in the side Arsenal will certainly make life difficult for Chelsea.
Petr Cech Interview - Courtesy of Arsenal Tv
Players In: Radamel Falcao (from Monaco - Loan), Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)
Players Out (major only): Petr Cech (Arsenal), Didier Drogba (released), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid).
There is no doubt Mourinho's Chelsea side were head and shoulders above the rest of the Premier League and despite some games at the end where they ground out results, they fully deserved their title. Having lost Cech, Didier Drogba and Filipe Luis, Mourinho has added back up goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and has made the astute signing on loan of Falcao, who spent last season on loan at Manchester United. He is also pursuing Everton's John Stones though it remains to be seen whether those moves will be successful.
Chelsea's preseason could be viewed as being unconvincing at first glance coming off the back of 2 draws and 1 defeat in their 3 matches. The defeat was a 4-2 loss against the New York Red Bull's whereas the draws came against PSG (1-1) and Barcelona (2-2). Both of the draws ended in penalty shoot out victories for the Blues. Whilst last season's star striker Diego Costa has failed to score the form of Eden Hazard has been impressive with him scoring a superb goal in Tuesday's Barcelona match. Chelsea boast a squad full of talent with Cesc Fabregas facing his old club. He, Hazard, Willian and Oscar provide the creativity with the outstanding Nemanja Matic providing the protection to the back four. At the back, John Terry and Tim Cahill marshall the defense with Azpilicueta and Ivanovic holding the full back roles. Courtois, the man who displaced Cech, will continue between the sticks. With Loic Remy, Victor Moses, Falcao, Juan Cuadrado and the impressive Kurt Zouma providing the depth Chelsea are in a good position to continue their fine record against the Gunners.
Hazard Picks up Where He Left Off
With Chelsea enduring a midweek flight back from the United States and Arsenal being able to have a week training at home in London, Arsenal could be considered slight favorites. However, with the aggression and power of Matic and the creativity and finishing skills of Costa, Hazard and Fabregas plus Falcao likely from the bench, I see Chelsea winning it for the 5th time 3-1. I doubt there will be much Charity in this match with referee Anthony Taylor putting his notebook and cards to good use in a fiery affair. Enjoy the match!