Published on The Arsenal Review
The season finally gets underway with this fixture. The Community Shield has been the curtain-raiser for many years, and this season starts with a London derby with plenty of expected fireworks to look forward to.
Last season saw the Gunners edge out their West London opponents in terms of amount of victories – one apiece in League wins, with Arsenal grabbing the decider with their victory in the FA Cup Final – but Antonio Conte winning the title in his first season means the Blues will start this fixture as favourites.
Last season means precious little however. Both sides will be fit and raring to go after both clubs have enjoyed extensive series of matches home and abroad, so there should be no lack of rhythm or final ball.
This event is meant to be a friendly, but it will be anything but as both sides will be eager to score psychological points over the other. Both outfits will be expected to be near the top come the end of the season, and a winning start over a rival is something that may be a big boost – and a huge dent for the other.
Both sides have already met in pre-season, with Chelsea running out comfortable 3-0 winners in Asia. It may have smarted, but this game carries far more weight.
Arsene Wenger has said in his Press Conference that his squad is nearly completely injury free, so the Gunners boss has some difficult calls to make. The only omissions from the squad will be Santi Cazorla and Gabriel, as well as Francis Coquelin. Will Wenger opt for the 3-5-2? Or will he fall back on his old faithful – the 4-2-3-1?
Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were carrying knocks but are expected to make it, but what of Alexis? The Chilean has just returned to training, will he come straight back into the team? In truth, there is an embarrassment of riches in attack for Wenger, with Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Alexandre Lacazette all vying for the striker spot.
If Wenger does go for three at the back, will Shkodran Mustafi miss out? The German has missed the majority of training, but is technically fit and available for selection. If Mustafi does miss out, will it be Rob Holding, Mohamed Elneny or Per Mertesacker that will partner Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal?
So many questions, but Antonio Conte has just as many quandaries. With Alvaro Morata, Kevin Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko added to an already bulging roster, what will Chelsea’s eleven look like? Will the success of last season dictate Conte’s selection? Or will Morata and co get a baptism of fire? He will have to make do without Eden Hazard and Pedro through injury.
Whoever makes the team at Wembley, they will surely know that this is no ordinary ‘friendly.’ Both sets of fans will want this trophy badly, as will the Managers, although they will be loath to declare their wanting. This match matters though, make no mistake.
Chelsea are favourites for this game, but they were overwhelming favourites in May – and look how that turned out.
Potential Lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette.
Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal.