The strange position that the FA Community Shield occupies in football fans’ mind got even stranger this year. The traditional curtain raiser to the premier league season is now more than a pre-season game. I still believe it would be valued more were it called the Super Cup, but it was strange to see it played so early in pre-season. Some people were even suggesting it should have been cancelled this year. I’m glad it wasn’t.
FA Cup winners Arsenal went into the game as underdogs against the champions, Liverpool. The latter not only have the better squad and were missing fewer players, they were further ahead in their fitness work, having held a fitness camp. Arsenal’s starting XI felt somewhat patched together, like a team in limbo. Players missing, players rumoured to be on their way out starting, and a few incomings still in the works.
So it was no surprise that Liverpool started well. They constantly harried us, attacked the space, and even had the ball in the back of the net from a set play. It was thankfully, and correctly, chalked off for offside. It didn’t prove costly, but we were persistently vulnerable from set pieces. This is an issue from last season, and the club has brought in a set piece specialist coach to address it. We should get better as the season goes on.
Our defending in general is much better though. Robertson and Mane were a constant threat down their left, but for the most part Holding covered Mane well, and the defenders were well positioned to deal with the crosses. Liverpool were playing high up the pitch, and I thought we did well of dealing with not just their attack, but also their press. We mixed it up and played it long a few times, and of course there were times we just ended up kicking it out of play. But to see the confident buildup play right from our own box was encouraging and a lot of fun.
It also led to the goal. We passed it around the 4(!) Liverpool players pressing us in our box, found the space down the right for Saka who played a cross field ball for Aubameyang. Auba then cut inside and calmly curled it into the far corner. The Black Panther celebration in honour of Chadwick Boseman followed. It was a thing of beauty and the closest I’ve seen to Thierry Henry. Even Klopp nodded in appreciation at that finish.
This led to a spell where Arsenal could have scored a few more goals. Maybe should have. Nketiah won the ball in midfield and could have finished it with a goal only to have it saved. He also had a shot from outside the box that went wide. AMN found himself in the box and passed the ball when he should perhaps have shot.
Liverpool’s shots were all blocked by our midfield and defenders, while their crosses, though threatening, didn’t find their target. A well deserved 1-0 at halftime, despite Liverpool’s superior possession.
In the second half, AMN and Firmino traded long distance shots, either of which could have gone in. For once, Rob Holding was caught out by Mane, who went through on goal, but Martinez proved up to the task yet again. It seemed fairly comfortable for Arsenal until the famous Japanese gladiator Minamino came on and had maximum impact. Quick interchange between him and Salah, a couple of deflections, and a possible/likely handball found the goal at Minamino’s mercy and this time there were no heroics from an Arsenal GK. 1-1 and the game hung in the balance. Mane had another chance when Saka was guilty of losing the ball in our box, but once again Emi closed down the shot. That was about that, and the game went to penalties. Everyone but Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster scored their pens with Auba, fittingly, taking the last one to win us our first trophy of the season.
After the game he was asked about his contract, and although he wouldn’t be drawn on it he said this was an exciting time to play for Arsenal. Good vibes there. Also shoutout to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who had a very good game on his birthday. Even coolly slotting home his penalty in the shootout. He sounds like he wants to stay, Arteta, sounds like he wants him to stay. Not sure why this rumor exists.
It’s too early to draw too many conclusions. Fitness, personnel, tactics; they could all change. But it was an encouraging start from Arsenal. Even Mohamed Elneny, widely considered to be surplus to requirements, had a good game against a very good Liverpool side. With all the upheavals possible in the squad, maybe he can find himself in the squad for the coming season. Holding was linked with a loan move to Newcastle. Martinez is still going to be in a battle with Leno. Healthy competition for places? Too many options in a unbalanced squad? Who knows with Arsenal right now. But I’m enjoying finding out.
Written by Shard aka @shardgooner
Nice match report as always Shotta.
Thanks to my friend Shard.
Great report of a great day for Arteta’s Arsenal.
It’s going to be fun watching the gaffers true born heir at work.
Last time he walked into the dressing room as the player-coach captain he slapped the incumbents into shape.
This time round it may be more then just the dressing room that he is clearing up, with help? Including you know who?
Dare we dream that Arteta can manage Forest Gump/Josh Kronke?
They’d be fools to not back this coach.
but the problem is, given their time efforts over the last decade, the horrific damage done by Unai & Raul / Laurel & Hardy, and the fact that the gaffer has still not been back to visit even though he is chatting away to the current coach means that there is no doubt:
Joshi is a fool,
has made himself look like a fool in front of the entire fan base and beyond,
and is likely to continue to act like the fool he is.
As Forest Gump would say:
“Stupid is as stupid does”
Yes indeed. Arteta has got the team playing. However his best results so far is by setting up to counterattack better attacking sides like Liverpool (twice), Man City and Chelsea. As a result he has justifiably been able to leave Ozil out. But what about those 13 other teams we need to beat consistently to get back to the top-4 or 6. Pre and post Arteta we had difficulties with the likes of Sheffield and Brighton. The squad is still unbalanced after Raul and the Kroenkes made a shambles of the transfers in and out last year. Does Arteta believe Arsenal can succeed playing the low-block consistently?
Top stuff from Shard.
Shotta, you are jumping the gun.
Listening to those who’ve looked at some stats of the game the Gunners played a back three off the ball, but especially when passing out from the back it was a four on the ball with the CBs combining with the CMs & the FBs going wide:
the old double pivot which was an expression that raises the ire of some but then, their stupidity is not Arteta’s problem!
A variation with Tierney at the back going wide from the centre, to what we saw at the start of 2020 when out of necessity Xhaka was the primary playmaker in the back three and coming forward into CM, now he is back where he is most needed and others have also returned to fitness Arteta has been playing his best ball players available at the back and that’s why Sokratis has been unlucky in spite of decent defensive performances when asked, not forgetting his goal in the cup run hehe, but I’m not sure he’d have found Bellerin as smoothly as Holding for the goal.
Luiz direct to Aubameyang, Bellerin or Tierney clipping the ball with exceptional quality into spaces that are there to exploit, a golfer would approve of some of the beautiful wedge clips forward we’ve seen since the restart.
This team can pass from the back.
Opponents thought they’d figured out the Xhaka game plan yet that was only out of necessity, Mikel obviously wanted his best midfielder back in his midfield!
With three players passing out from the back, Bellerin and Niles having the technical ability and mental agility to come inside as midfielders, depending on the game or opponent (we saw Niles cut in from the right first, even before the lockdown).
We’ve seen how Arteta was building richness and depth into his team, they can switch it up on the field with minor tweaks as against City in the SF.
opponents can’t prepare for all the variations up the Gunners’ sleeve. and before the crisis hit and the wages deduction that all included Ozil.
So: I guess we’ll see what happens there.
The fixture schedule is going to be intense.
Ozil couldn’t play all season every three games. I suspect Arteta knows what he is doing.
Run Forest run!
Great comment(s) fins..
Forget opponents not being able to prepare for all the variations in tactics and personnel, and spare a thought for the poor and humble blogger who has to write match previews.
Thought out defence was solid for the most part. Only Mané of their from three posed any kind of threat. Set-plays are still dicey affairs, glad we didn’t concede too many of them.
Our MF lacked something going forward but did enough when they had to defend.
We deserved the trophy. Great start to any season. Fantastic start to Arteta’s Arsenal managerial stint. More, please.