And Arsenal add another piece of silverware to the collection. Four weeks to the day after Mikel Arteta’s squad bested Chelsea at Wembley to win the FA Cup, the Gunners top Liverpool on penalties for the Community Shield. That’s 16 of those trophies (?) for the club. 29 matches in charge for Mikel Arteta. Two trophies. That’s a pretty good record, I’d say.
Glorified friendly silliness aside, it was a emboldening performance from Arsenal. A decidedly not first-choice starting lineup played Liverpool’s choice 11 minus Trent Alexander-Arnold even for 90 minutes. The Gunners were the better team in the first half, too.
Mikel Arteta set his side up as he had against Liverpool (and Manchester City) during the restart, and once again, it was effective. The side defended well in the low block and scored through a fantastic team move. For the goal, the ball started in the Arsenal area, went through Martinez, eventually found Bukayo Saka who pinged a gorgeous crossfield ball to Aubameyang who added a world-class finish.
Liverpool were a bit fortunate on their equalizer — the bouncing ball went their way. But on the whole, they probably did enough to get a goal in the second half. Arsenal looked weary as time wore on and were starting to buckle defensively. Mikel Arteta held onto his subs a bit long, although some of that is down to not having a chance to get them on. His triple change was up and waiting for a while before the ball went into touch. Once the fresh legs of Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson came on up top, Arsenal had the better of the possession and chances to close out the match.
The Gunners converted all five of their penalties. Rhian Brewster, who Jurgen Klopp seemingly brought on specifically to take a penalty, went off the bar and over for the Reds.
A few notes:
- Great performance from Bukayo Saka. The Arsenal attack ran through him until he ran out of gas in the second half. His passing is really, really good.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles was fantastic at left wing. He’s a shutdown defender, which allows Arsenal to do so much tactically. He’s able to tuck in when the ball is on the right, and he’s got the awareness and pace to cover wide when the play shifts. His Man of the Match award was well-deserved. Really hope Arsenal don’t sell him.
- Emi Martinez was great, again. Two strong saves on Sadio Mane. Arsenal have a genuine goalkeeping duel on their hands. I honestly don’t know who should be the opening day starter at this point.
- Solid performances from Rob Holding, David Luiz, and Granit Xhaka. None of them made glaring mistakes, and Arsenal didn’t give up too many ten-bell chances.
- Great game from Mohamed Elneny. Who knows whether he’ll be with the club when the transfer window closes, but if he plays like he did today, he could have a role going forward.
- Hector Bellerin looked closer to his pre-ACL injury self.
- Kieran Tierney hardly ever puts a foot wrong, at this point.
- Eddie Nketiah worked hard and made a nuisance of himself. He’s not as good out of possession as Alexandre Lacazette because he can switch off without the ball making him half a step late to his man, but he’s improving. He’s an above-average backup CF with upside.
That was fun. Winning is fun. Winning trophies is more fun. In the grand scheme of things, taking home the Community Shield probably doesn’t do much for the club this season, but winning it is better than losing!
And just because I need to stay on-brand. There’s this. Come on. What are we doing out here?