Arsène Wenger finally ended his hoodoo against José Mourinho in tense fashion as Arsenal scraped a 1-0 win in the Community Shield. Whilst Arsenal did brilliantly to get their win and the silverware to come with it, there were plenty of errors from which they must learn if they want to sustain challenges on both domestic and European fronts. Chelsea, without star striker Diego Costa, had plenty of problems themselves. Thus, here are six things we learned from the Community Shield, both positive and negative.
1. Clear it wide!
Arsenal were at their worst in terms of ball retention in the second half. They kept giving the ball away to Chelsea and made life a lot more difficult for themselves when trying to defend their lead. With the exception of Petr Čech, the Arsenal players continually cleared the ball through the centre and straight back to Chelsea instead of playing the ball wide (or into touch) to give them more time to get back into position or even win the ball back themselves.
2. Walcott doesn’t work as a lone striker against deep-sitting defences.
Theo Walcott was devastating in the FA Cup final against an Aston Villa side who played a high defensive line with slow centre-backs, but on his own against a deep-sitting, physical defence he seemed to struggle. When Olivier Giroud came on, it looked easier for Arsenal to keep possession in the final third and create chances, though he spurned two gilt-edged opportunities to make the score 2-0.
3. Falcao looks promising, but Diego Costa’s place is not under threat.
Radamel Falcao was an astute signing by Chelsea. The fox-in-the-box will certainly be able to score quite a few goals for the Blues in games against weaker teams parking the bus. He looked a lot stronger already in a Chelsea side with far more creative options than the Manchester United team of last season, but he didn’t show enough signs of being on Diego Costa’s level. Costa is a great finisher himself, but is more likely to create something for himself out of nothing than the Colombian. Falcao will have to rely on the creative players to make something happen for him, and this will prevent him from securing a consistent place in the starting line-up.
4. Petr Čech is even more crucial to Arsenal than first thought.
When Čech signed for Arsenal he was lauded as one of the final pieces in Wenger’s jigsaw. Arsenal have lacked a consistently world-class goalkeeper since Jens Lehmann was at his peak, and he showed just how much of a difference he will make this season today.
In the past, things have become tense when the ball has gone near Wojciech Szczesny or David Ospina, particularly from crosses and set pieces. But Čech dealt with any balls into the box with consummate ease to the extent that, from crosses in open play, the attackers barely bothered trying to bully him into making a mistake. It’s safe to say that attackers were far more willing to pressurise the likes of Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski and Ospina. Čech put the icing on the cake with a fantastic save from a goalbound free-kick.
5. Basic errors could prevent Arsenal from winning the elite two trophies this season.
Arsenal did not hold onto their lead as calmly as Mourinho’s side would have. All too often, Arsenal let the game stay alive with silly mistakes. As well as failing to clear the ball effectively, too many passes went astray and the Gunners did not keep possession as effectively as normal. Furthermore, a few basic positioning errors from Francis Coquelin and Hector Bellerin in particular gave Chelsea far too much space — far more space than the Chelsea defence and midfield offered Arsenal going forward. All it will take will be for other teams to capitalise on these little errors and Arsenal will miss their chance to win the Premier League or Champions League this year.
6. Short corners are the way to close out games.
Arsenal did very well to win so many corners towards the end of the game, but did not use them to kill the game off. Instead of crossing the ball into the box — and thus allowing Courtois to catch the ball and start a counter-attack — Arsenal could have used up time by taking the corner short, keeping the ball by the corner flag, or simply passing the ball all the way back to Čech and rebuilding from there. It’s minor details like that which can really change the fortunes of teams.
What is a good sign for Arsenal is that the negatives from the game are relatively minor ones. What’s more, they were able to deal with their mistakes very well — in general Chelsea attacks were fended off very well. However, they still gave their opponents a too many opportunities and once again were reliant on the brilliance of Laurent Koscielny (and now Čech) to bail them out.
Chelsea lacked a bit of sharpness, but they’ll still be the team to beat. It was clear from the word go that they are very well set up, and once the full team is back they’ll be the formidable force they were last year. The team is by no means perfect — Branislav Ivanović in particular does not seem to be able to offer much going forward — but it will take a monumental effort from Arsenal to knock them off their perch.