FA Community Shield
Sunday, August 6, 2017 | 2:00 PM BST/9:00 am EDT/6:00 am PDT
Alexis Sanchez’s Favorite Playing Ground
No one cares about the Community Shield.
Unless, of course, your team wins it.
To the winners, the prize suddenly becomes a legitimate domestic trophy to add to the end-of-year tally. Remember when Paul Pogba, after the Europa League final, said, “We have three trophies”? I think we were all a little confused, until we remembered … oh yeah, Man United won the Community Shield. Wait, that counts?
Amid the transfer-market hype and the barrage of preseason tournaments, many dismiss the Community Shield as another meaningless friendly, a glorified scrimmage—bearing no indication on how the upcoming season will unfold. Yes, by now, these arguments have unbearably obvious. But they miss the point.
Here’s the bottom line: winning the Community Shield means winning silverware. Not a measly preseason souvenir like the Emirates Cup or the International Champions Cup. This is not an inventional. These two teams earned the right to be here and the Community Shield is a historic trophy that’s been around for over one hundred years, and has been lifted by over thirty clubs. If nothing else, the Shield provides a symbolic victory, a significant morale boost going into any season, and a stage to show off for new signings.
The 2017 edition of the traditional curtain-raiser offers two things that most haven’t: a heated rivalry, and a rematch of the previous year’s FA Cup final. No one will overlook the Community Shield this time around.
Here’re four reasons to be excited about the matchup.
1. Wenger’s Record
Clearly no one told Arsene Wenger that the Community Shield doesn’t matter. During his tenure at the club, Wenger has won six of his eight appearances in this fixture (and lost only on penalties in 2003 to Manchester United). Under Wenger, Arsenal has been a confident, free-flowing, fast-moving machine in each of its appearances—outscoring opponents 15-6, boasting over 80 total shots, and averaging nearly 60% possession.
In addition to preserving his personal record, Wenger will want to show the Arsenal faithful that the FA Cup was not a fluke.
Antonio Conte, on the other hand, will be eager to prove that it was.
2. A Grudge Match
Let’s remember something. Arsenal humiliated Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Chalk it up to a celebration hangover or a moment of overconfidence, but the fact remains: on that day, Arsenal was better in every conceivable way. After their defeat—and despite their ceaseless efforts to remind everyone that they’d had a good season otherwise—Conte and company were noticeably frustrated. What was supposed to be a triumphant double turned into a disorienting debacle for the Blues. And, whether the Chelsea camp wants to admit it or not, the loss left a dark blemish on what would’ve been a near-perfect season.
Conte has already confirmed that he’s taking this game seriously, and that he plans to win. The revenge element here could ensure one of the most exciting matchups the Community Shield has seen in years.
3. New Faces
The Community Shield has always been a showcase for summer signings and youth players. This year will be no different.
Sunday will be our first real look at a squad strengthened by the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac. Both have been impressive thus far in the preseason, but the stakes are much higher now, and we should expect an appropriate effort. The prospect of seeing Lacazette combining with the likes of Mesut Özil makes for required viewing.
Plus, there seems to be an ongoing feeling of revival at the Emirates this offseason. I’ll venture to say—at the risk of sounding like another goon optimist—that the club seems more focused, determined, and ambitious than in previous summers. The Shield is where we begin to see what we’re made of.
It feels so good when they lose.
What to Expect
For Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, this is a huge match that will set the tone for the rest of the season. Wenger knows he needs to start the year off with a bang and get the fans on his side early. Winning some silverware, however minor, should go along way in accomplishing that. And while it’s obvious that the Shield doesn’t mean much in the title race, it might influence how teams start the season (remember how bad Leicester City was last year, or Chelsea the year before?).
We need this wins kickstart the season. Arsenal has never failed to score under Wenger in the Community Shield, and that’s not going to change this year.
Oh, and did I mention we’ve won eight straight games at Wembley?
Place your bets. The Goons to put on a show.