Image courtesy of Arsenal’s Facebook page.
Arsenal’s win over Chelsea via the new ABBA penalty shoot-out format was exactly what is has become over the years, a final friendly before the new Premier League season begins.
Arsene Wenger may have played up the result, but neither team are entirely ready for the new season. Until Pedro was sent-off, Arsenal looked as they usually did, full of menace when not in front of goal. As for Chelsea, it was obvious that a pairing of N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas did not quite work. There was a void, probably found in the hulking frame of Nemanja Matic – which as Frank Lampard asked quite simply – why?
Chelsea were not far short of a win, but the audience no longer takes pre-season games as simply by wins or losses. These are times to see marquee signings in the jersey for the first few times, and to dream big about where the club can finish at home or in Europe. Tiemoue Bakayoko may yet fill the void for Matic, but Chelsea need more reinforcements. They have only 17(?) first-team players, which is a pretty dire situation if for a club looking to challenge on four fronts.
Changing of the guard up front has got be the big issue for Chelsea this season. Whether Alvaro Morata can adapt quickly enough to replacing Diego Costa up front. His class means that he will get there eventually, maybe with a full season this time and pre-season next summer. Right now however, a shortage of goals from either him or Michy Batshuayi could see them struggle against the Big Six and the rest. Simply, Chelsea needs more players, options in the various positions. Without reinforcements, defending the title becomes quite a bit more difficult. Where is Roman Abramovich’s gold laden cavalry?
As we move onto Arsenal, it seems as if we have stepped into the temporal zone, where the past, present and future exist simultaneously. Arsenal will not win the title, and struggle for the Champions League places, if they do not strengthen by two or three more players than Wenger prescribes. Arsenal has always lacked depth, and different options off the bench, to dominate games a la Invincibles. As an observer, there’s a certain repetition that becomes mind-numbingly dire. If Alexis Sanchez leaves now, well, what would happen then?
This is where we are with the Arsenal. Promising purchases like Alexandre Lacazette, good talent coming through like Alex Iwobi, a plethora of players that want to play in centre midfield, a gaping need for a real centre-back and a belief that all players’ attributes, like in FIFA 17, will continue to improve towards a better finish next year. No, Arsenal do not have a title-winning defence. Per Mertesacker is in decline, Laurent Koscielny is injury prone, and Gabriel Paulista is ? Rob Holding is young and will develop, but much will now rest on Shkrodan Mustafi. The midfield requires work, an Mohammed Elneny and Granit Xhaka combinations lacks progressiveness. Both are solid passers of the ball, but they miss Santi Cazorla’s inventiveness. The same criticism about Arsenal’s transfer strategy persists, where are the leaders in this team? Why not spend big on steel and subtlety?
The Community Shield really, was a relatively tepid affair that may have only yielded the limit of both sides’ true ambitions for the forthcoming season. That is not a prediction, but it may as well be if neither Chelsea or Arsenal are able to shore up significantly by window’s close.