Arsenal have won consecutive Community Shield titles, in addition to their back-to-back FA Cups in 2014 and 2015, after their 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday
Many will discount the match as “not a real trophy,” but the teams in the Community Shield are only there based on recent silverware—the FA Cup winners and the Premier League champions. Further, anyone who thinks the players on Chelsea don’t care about losing to Arsenal, or vice versa, is gravely mistaken.
The NFL’s Green Bay Packers don’t play the Chicago Bears in preseason games, but if they did, it’d probably look something like the Chelsea-Arsenal match we saw on Sunday — a match that, even without the highest stakes, neither team wanted to lose.
But lose Chelsea have. So, with the traditional curtain-raising match in the books, what can we take away from it heading into the 2015 English Premier League season?
The Ox Will Rock
The Community Shield’s only goal came in the 24th minute, and if the fans at Wembley might’ve hoped to see more scoring for their money, the one that was knocked in was certainly a goal worth remembering. Mesut Özil fed Theo Walcott up front, who knocked the ball on to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. With Cesar Azpilicueta closing him down—or at least appearing to do so—Oxlade-Chamberlain opened up to shoot with his left foot, and proved he had enough space to get the job done, firing a cracking shot into the top left corner.
The goal was a beauty in its own right, the difference maker on the day. Arsenal fans hope it’s a sign of great things to come.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived in North London from Southampton in 2011 for a fee in the neighborhood of £15 million. Then only 18 years old and with not a minute of Premier League Football under his belt (Southampton had not yet been promoted to the EPL at that stage), some questioned whether the youngster, whatever his promise, was worth such a fee.
Even back in 2011, Oxlade-Chamberlain showed flashes of brilliance, and in the four years he’s been with Arsenal he has often appeared to be on the cusp of a breakthrough. But injuries have hampered him. Last season, “The Ox” missed more than three months of football due to a combination of groin and hamstring problems.
Now, it seems, he’s at full fitness, and ready to fully establish himself in the Arsenal starting XI. With pace to beat even the fastest defenders, strong footwork and, as we saw at Wembley, one hell of a shot, The Ox has everything it takes to grab goals from midfield.
In the Community Shield, Oxlade-Chamberlain ran all over Azpilicueta, until it was apparent that the Spanish defender was being fully overmatched and Jose Mourinho decided to take him off. Gooners will be looking for Ox to continue those kind of performances, and if he can turn up in big games, against other top-four teams, then this might finally be the year that Oxlade-Chamberlain flourishes into one of England’s best attacking midfielders.
Petr Cech Is Arsenal’s No. 1
Wojciech Szczęsny had a fantastic 2013-14 season, and that year he shared the Golden Glove with Chelsea’s Petr Cech. But after a mediocre season last year, including a shameful locker room debacle in which Szczesny lit up a cigarette in the showers, the Polish goalkeeper is off to Roma on loan, and Cech has traded the blue of Stamford Bridge for Red at the Emirates.
Colombia’s David Ospina, the other seasoned international goalkeeper on Arsenal’s books, had a strong season last year, good enough to take the starting job away from the out-of-favor Pole. However, despite Ospina’s great year, the game at Wembley this weekend made one thing clear: the job as Arsenal’s starting keeper belongs to Cech.
Cech made a series of good saves during the game, perhaps most impressively stopping an Oscar free kick in the second half. Will he face more grueling tests through the course of this year’s campaign? Certainly. But already getting the tabloid-headline dreams of “Cech Faces Old Club” and “Wenger Finally Beats Mourinho” (the first time in fourteen attempts) out of the way can’t hurt the mindset of Cech personally, nor the locker room mentality of the entire Arsenal squad in general.
Szczesny was—and remains—a promising young keeper who has at times played above himself, and Ospina is a very solid international No. 1 who provides good competition. But this is Petr Cech, one of the best keepers in Premier League history.
Arsene Wenger has already compared Cech to Edwin van der Sar, the Netherlands international who joined Manchester United late in his career. In van der Sar’s final season at Old Trafford, 2010-11, he produced one of his very best campaigns, keeping United clean on multiple occasions, and earning an EPL title for his club, the fourth of his Manchester United career. Cech may not manage to win four league titles for Arsenal, but if he can even manage one, then he, like van der Sar, may just enjoy a silver swan song in North London.
Chelsea’s Rusty Midfield Stars
The FA Community Shield, as has been said before, is not a major trophy. It’s a way to raise the curtain on a new year with high-profile clubs, a day out for fans at Wembley and a showcase of talent with something on the line, but without the pressure of an EPL, FA Cup or Champions League fixture. Still, with all that said, Chelsea supporters will be looking for more from their talismanic midfielders come next weekend, when the Premiership campaign begins in earnest.
The EPL crown is Chelsea’s to defend. But if the Arsenal midfielders can put in a repeat performance when these two teams face off in league play on September 19th, and if the Gunners forwards’ can produce a better performance than this past weekend saw, then in this London derby, the Blues may be in for some blues of their own.