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Community Shield win shows value of cohesion

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It may have been a friendly, but the Community Shield showed the value of cohesion.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

In his post-match conference, the definitely not upset like a three-year old who's throwing his toys out of the pram Jose Mourinho accused Arsenal of "leaving their philosophy in the dressing room", while saying some other ironically hilarious things, like how "Chelsea were the better side" because of "their ball possession". It was the philosophy barb, though, that was supposed to sting, which shows Mourinho was as effective as Radamel Falcao. Arsène Wenger's philosophy has never been about having more possession. It has been about playing football, as a team, with all facets of his side defending and attacking. He has tried to follow football's trends: the late 90s and early noughts sides were based around pace and power, the Project Youth era centered around Cesc Fabregas, possession and attacking football. In the last three seasons, though, his sides have become more pragmatic. And this summer, in lieu of signing a superstar (though Petr Cech is very, very good), Wenger has discussed the importance of stability and cohesion, two qualities which were on show at Wembley on Sunday.

Arsenal did not play as well as they have in pre-season on Sunday. In terms of chances, the game was relatively low on quality moments: Courtois made two excellent saves late, and Hazard and Ramires missed two chances. Both sides did not put many moves together. But the move that Arsenal put together, to score their only goal, came from a position, on the left wing, that was not very threatening, showed the value of cohesion, as they quickly created a great opportunity to score.

The ball gets worked to Mesut Özil on the left hand side. Aaron Ramsey, as he is allowed to do from a central position, makes a forward run, trying to go beyond Chelsea's centre backs. With Ivanovic closer to Nacho Monreal, this forces Gary Cahill to be dragged to the right, and John Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta to go on the cover.

Arsenal goal v Chelsea

This opens space for Theo Walcott. Walcott did not have a very effective game at centre forward, but his pace did force Chelsea to defend that little bit deeper, that allowed Ramsey, Cazorla and Özil a little more space to combine and try and play through the Chelsea defence. Here, Walcott is intelligent in the position he takes up.

Arsenal goal v Chelsea

Ramsey has gone offside, but the threat of him going back onside and making another run remains. Nemanja Matic is in a bad position; dragged towards the right because Cesc Fabregas and Ramires are not in good defensive positions, and Jose Mourinho likely instructed Matic to close Özil  down, as opposed to Arsenal, who were happy to let Fabregas be on the ball and close down his passing options, confident that he couldn't play dynamically without passing. The clever switch from Özil to Walcott, and the good position he takes up, forces Terry to come out, while Matic also moves across. Cahill is still concerned by Ramsey, and Azpilicueta has to cover Terry while also concern himself with Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is now in wide open space.

Arsenal goal v Chelsea

The final good off the ball run comes from Héctor Bellerín, whose overlapping inside run takes Matic away, and means Oxlade-Chamberlain only has to beat Azpilicueta, which he does quite comfortably, and scores.

Arsenal goal v Chelsea

The move does not come about if the off the ball runs, the best evidence of Arsenal's cohesive play, are not made. Ramsey made the run because he knew Özil could make the pass; the run created space, so Özil was able to choose a different option, and Bellerín, whose attacking runs and timing of runs has become better after 6 months in the side, made an intelligent run that Oxlade-Chamberlain could've utilised, either by passing, or by exploiting the space. It shows the merit of Wenger's emphasis on stability and cohesion. The best Wenger teams were devastating because they made runs and passes that only they could see; that does not come about immediately, as Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham have found in recent seasons.

The other stable part of Arsenal's play was their defending. The shape of the side is much better this season than it has been since November 2013; as Mourinho pointed out, Arsenal were effective in keeping men behind the ball and playing on the counter attack. The back four is well-balanced, as was the midfield, and Chelsea, who found such joy against Arsenal 17 months ago in March 2014, were unable to create many meaningful chances against a solid defensive unit who have gone up another level with the addition of Petr Cech.

Wenger has been stupidly attacked in some quarters for emphasising the importance of stability and cohesion, but on Sunday, the ridiculous nature of those critiques was exposed by the comfortable way in Arsenal dispatched Chelsea. It may only be the Community Shield, but it's another encouraging performance before Arsenal begin the Premier League campaign in earnest.