Chelsea failed to avenge their FA Cup final defeat arlier this year at the hands of Arsenal at Wembley as they again went down to the Gunners in the Community Shield, the traditional curtain riser to the English football season.
The Blues left Wembley with more questions than answers and it will not have escaped Antonio Conte’s attention that the last two managers to win the Premier League (Ranieri with Leicester in 2015/16 and Mourinho with Chelsea in 2014/15) both lost the Community Shield at Wembley and were sacked midway through the next season.
Chelsea looked way off the pace at Wembley and some of Conte’s transfer market decisions- selling Nemanja Matic to rivals Manchester United, his tiff with Diego Costa and offloading talented youngsters like Nathaniel Chalobah, Nathan Ake, Reuben-Loftus Cheek, to name a few, have left the Blues struggling for depth ahead of their season opener against Burnley. It might be a tad premature to draw conclusions so early, but some fans are already seeing parallels between this campaign and their ill-fated 15/16 one.
The Blues came into this game on the back of successive Champions Cup losses against Inter and Bayern, but were unable to turn things around. They sorely missed Eden Hazard’s creativity- the Belgian is so integral to their attack, and will be hoping he returns before their clash against Spurs later this month.
Chelsea took the lead shortly after half time through Victor Moses, but like at the FA Cup final, one of their players were red carded- this time it was Pedro. The Spanish international, playing with a face mask after suffering fractures in his collision with Ospina, produced an ill-timed studs up challenge that left Madley with no option but to send off him.
That seemed to breathe new life into Arsenal and substitute Sead Kolasinac headed in the equaliser from a delightful Xhaka free kick. Kolasinac, a free transfer from Schalke, had a very good outing for the Gunners and is the first Arsenal player to open his scoring account for the club since Gilberto back in 2002.
It finished 1-1 and went to penalties, with the new ABBA format- aimed at reducing the advantage to the team taking the first penalty, used to decide the result. Courtois, somewhat surprisingly, went to take a spot kick and missed, and so did Alvaro Morata. Arsenal nailed all four of their spot kicks, with Olivier Giroud scoring the winning one as the Gunners prevailed 4-1 in the shootout.