Arsenal won the Community Shield, but does this mean anything for the upcoming season?
In what was a tense game, the Gunners beat Chelsea 1-0 in this season's annual Community Shield, the fixture that pits last season's Premier League winners against the winners of the FA Cup.
This wasn’t a shock result, but perhaps a little bit more surprising than if Chelsea had won, as they were most likely very slight favourites. Ultimately Arsenal winning was not an ‘underdog’ story.
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It was not a particularly exciting game, nor one filled with great quality (other than Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal in the 24th minute).
That being said it provided a preview of how we can expect to see both Arsenal and Chelsea play this season, and demonstrated their weaknesses and their strengths.
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Cech; Monreal, Mertesacker (c), Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Özil, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott.
Tactically Arsenal were cautious and defensive, allowing Chelsea to dominate play before countering rapidly and catching them out of position, which is exactly what happened for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal. The use of Francis Coquelin in a 4-1-2-2-1 formation was key.
The Frenchman is an interesting player. He has been lauded and praised for being exactly what Arsenal need; a sweeping central midfielder who cleans up play and thus allows Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla to flourish in their creative roles.
Personally I don’t think Coquelin is that good, or more rather I feel he is a decent player but considerably overrated as Arsenal players so often are. However, he is clearly an important cog in Arsene Wenger's system, as was seen at the weekend.
Coquelin was placed in that holding midfield position to keep the ball moving and to play simple passes to Messrs Ramsey, Cazorla and Mesut Ozil. That is exactly what happened, with Coquelin having a successful pass percentage of 87.2%, the third highest in the squad.
What worked well
What worked so well for Arsenal though was their counter attacking, and that could only work well if the Gunners' defence held true, and it did. Laurent Koscielny in particular played excellently, making two tackles, one interception and 16 clearances.
Ultimately Arsenal’s counter attacking play is what won them the game. Whilst on paper the formation is rather defensive, Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ozil all in the same midfield it is an attacking formation.
These four individuals are all interchangeable in terms of their positioning. Sometimes it would be Cazorla and Ramsey holding, sometimes Cazorla and Ozil. This attacking play was witnessed on the day, with Cazorla and Ozil making the most amount of key passes in the game, with three a piece.
As well as that Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain both had the highest pass percentage success rate, with 89.5% and 87.9% respectively.
Running the risk
However, Arsenal will need to watch out for teams that are more decisive than Chelsea. The Blues controlled the game, particularly in the first-half, and had a good amount of chances to score. If they had done then I’m not sure Arsenal had it in them to up their game.
The north Londoners played a good counter-attacking game, but only because Chelsea played into their hands. It will be interesting to see how Wenger's men play against teams that are playing defensively. Do they have what it takes to build and break rather than counter? We shall see.
Overall I would probably rate this performance as 6.5/10 - a good solid performance but nothing special, one of the main reasons they lost was due to Chelsea being poor.
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Ivanovic; Matic, Fabregas, Ramires, Willian, Hazard; Remy.
Interestingly enough Arsenal set up like a Jose Mourinho side would, and Chelsea set up their team in a way that would normally be assigned to Wenger. The Blues' game plan was to seemingly dominate the game through players like Nemanja Matic and Francesc Fabregas.
Ultimately the Chelsea defence played well, and no player in particular can be blamed for Arsenal’s goal. Matic and Fabregas were incredibly key to their side's performance; all play went through them, this shown with them making a combined 152 passes between them, nearly twice as much as Arsenal’s two most frequent passers.
Fabregas played OK against his old team, passing frequently and making three key passes. However, he very rarely created out and out chances for Chelsea and in fact the majority of their good play was created through runs from deep from Willian or Ramires.
Yet, as mentioned, Matic proved that he is the key cog in the Chelsea machine; making 73 passes (the second highest in the team) but also making the second highest amount of tackles with four and the most amount of interceptions for Chelsea, also four.
He was imperative in stopping Arsenal’s attack and dictating play from deep. Without Matic holding as he did the game could have been considerably more open in favour of the Gunners.
Similarly to Arsenal, Chelsea relied on highly flexible and fluid attackers. This meant that Willian, Eden Hazard and Ramires often switched positions and rotated. Many times did Ramires and Willian dribble from deep and push at the Arsenal defence, hoping for Loic Remy (and later Falcao) to make runs into space.
But that is what let Chelsea down. Whilst they made more passes and dictated play, their attack was utterly toothless. Remy (who was subbed at half time) and Falcao were non existent, there was no point in them being on the pitch.
Remy looked like he lacked match experience. As a player who relies on his pace so much we expect him to be making runs behind the defence and get caught offside perhaps once or twice, but he was caught offside four separate times, meaning Chelsea's attacks in the first half largely broke down completely.
Falcao was no better. He continued his Manchester United form, being a shadow of the player he once was. Have we heard El Tigre’s last roar? It seems to be that way.
Both strikers failed to get involved in the game, with them both having a combined 37 touches between them. The duo embodied Chelsea’s downfall.
I will give the Blues a 5/10 rating; their defence was solid and little could be done for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s emphatic finish. That said, their attack was completely pointless, not just with strikers Remy and Falcao but also Hazard, who might as well not have been on the pitch. The Belgian's only contribution to the game was an awful miss one on one with Petr Cech.
Arsenal played well, but benefitted more from Chelsea’s failings rather than their own quality. That's still not to take anything away from Arsenal; they played an intelligent game plan and it paid off.
Chelsea need to get Diego Costa back to full fitness and hope he stays that way. Keeping his hamstrings healthy and keeping Matic in form will mean the difference between another championship and a third place position.
Football fans, do you agree? Did Arsenal look like the better side on the day? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.