In a few hours, the blasts of the referee’s whistle will kick off the community shield at Wembley. And so, it starts. The traditional curtain raiser, the forerunner of a new football season. The herald to all our hopes. At least for the weekends. ANd Tuesdays. And Wednesday. And Mondays. And Thursdays.
Since 1908 apart from breaks during the world wars, the Community shield has marked the beginning of the English football season. Previously known as the Charity Shield, it used to be between the winners of the semi amateur Southern Football League and the Winners of the more professional Football League, professional football having developed faster in the Northern England (guess that’s why all the great English Clubs are in Northern England). The Shield became a fixture between the winner of the FA Cup and the Football League in 1930. Manchester United has featured most in the Community SHield, appearing a staggering 29 times and winning it 20 times.
This year, the Community Shield match between Arsenal and Chelsea promises to be an exciting turbo-charged affair but predictable. Exciting because both teams boast of top talent and have excellent managers, predictable because Arsene Wenger, Le Professorial Un simply seems to fold when he faces Jose Mourinho, The Happily Pragmatic one.
On comparing head-to-head meetings, Arsenal seems to edge it a bit more. Both sides have met 162 times with Arsenal winning 61 times, drawing 48 times and losing 53. Chelsea has more wins against Arsenal in the past 20 years though, winning 18 times, drawing 15 and losing 13. ANd Mourinho has never lost to Wenger in 13 meetings. I think Jose fantastic record against Arsene has been because he does his homework against Arsene and he is better at the mind games involved in modern soccer. He sets his sides up to be economical with the ball, defend in strength and break fast on the counter.
On the other hand, Arsene Wenger plays the gentle man’s game; in recent years, they have played beautiful football without being clinical. At times, it’s like they forget that football is a very physical game, especially in England and it is not uncommon to see Arsene’s players bundled off the ball. While there were signs last season that they are capable of playing with steel, especially with Coquelin, it remains to be seen whether they can actually maintain this over the course of the season. Notwithstanding, my money still will be on Chelsea.