As Premier League winners Chelsea take on FA Cup Champions Arsenal, the narrative will inevitably be fixed upon both teams’ managers. Whilst Mourinho has never lost to Wenger in his managerial career, the pre-seasons of both clubs will suggest that they have an equal shot at coming out victorious.
Much was written about Chelsea’s title winning squad last season, as well as Mourinho’s return to the front and centre of the Premier League. With Sir Alex Ferguson gone, and United slumping after his departure, Mourinho’s new Chelsea dominated the Premier League in a manner befitting the early days of Mourinho’s first reign. They were astute in defence, dominant in possession and effective in attack. Mourinho had made high profile sales and purchases, which paid ample dividends as the likes of Fabregas and Costa, were central to Chelsea’s domination.
Arsene Wenger’s side enjoyed success themselves last season, as they won their second successive FA Cup following a nine-year trophy drought. Whilst they didn’t match up to the astronomical expectations set by their cup victory, they achieved an automatic Champions League spot as well as successfully defending their FA Cup. Players such as Sanchez and Cazorla were instrumental in assembling a late season charge for the Gunners, earning them both respect and crucial momentum heading into the next season.
Team News and Tactics
Chelsea seemed to have enough firepower to come through the pre-season unscathed, and register some crucial momentum heading into the new league campaign.
This was however, not the case, as Chelsea did not manage to win a single game in 90 minutes, succumbing to defeat against the New York Red Bulls, and edging both Barcelona and PSG on penalties.
The 4-2 defeat to The New York Red Bulls was as disappointing as it was shocking. Despite fielding first-teamers like Oscar, Hazard, Remy and Terry, Chelsea lost to a Red Bulls side consisting of 10 Academy players.
Mourinho slammed his side’s performance, labelling them ‘fragile’:
“I was surprised by our fragilities,”
I said before we have no fragilities but today we had fragilities, lots of fragilities. I was surprised that we were not good enough in the second-half to cope with that.”
A positive sign for Chelsea, were the performances of young French defender Kurt Zouma. Touted by many to succeed John Terry in the heart of Chelsea’s defence, Zouma has been used excellently by Mourinho. Having eased him into the squad last season, all signs now point to Zouma enjoying a greater run in the first team, this season around.
Petr Cech’s replacement, Asmir Begovic, also enjoyed a positive run in his first games for Chelsea. The former Stoke No.1 performed brilliantly against PSG before being replaced by Courtois. The Belgian will still start the Community Shield game, but Mourinho will be happy knowing that Begovic is firmly up to the challenge.
Mourinho has made it clear that both Gary Cahill and Diego Costa are available for selection. Cahill’s damaged nose should rule him out of the fixture. Risking Costa, with his niggling hamstring problem however, would probably be a risk Mourinho doesn’t want to take.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-1-3): Courtois, Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Oscar, Willian, Hazard, Remy
Arsene Wenger’s side have enjoyed a practically flawless pre-season, having won all of their games in both the Asia Trophy and the Emirates Cup.
The Gunners impressively dispatched Lyon 6-0 at the Emirates last week, and they also beat Everton 3-1 in Singapore to clinch the Asia Trophy. In their four friendlies, they have found the net an impressive 14 times, conceding just once.
New goalkeeper Petr Cech seems to be exactly what Arsenal have needed, organising and stabilising an often inconsistent back line. With Wojciech Szczesny off to Roma, Cech is set to become Arsenal’s mainstay in goal, hopefully for a good long time.
Cech kept a clean sheet in his first start for the club, against Wolfsburg, whilst teenage starlet Jeff Reine-Adelaide has caught the eye with his pace and trickery. Arsenal will be aiming to win successive Community Shields for the first time since 1999.
Arsenal were also buoyed by the contract extensions of both Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott, both of whom were instrumental in Arsenal’s vital end season run, that secured both 3rd place and an FA Cup trophy for the Gunners.
While Arsenal’s healthy goal tally might suggest that they don’t need another striker, history has shown Girourd to succumb to inconsistency, leaving Arsenal requiring a strong, mercurial presence up front. Karim Benzema has been linked to with a move to the Emirates all summer, but the transfer seems unlikely as Benzema seems content and thriving at Real. Ozil’s deadline day signing might prove that it ain’t over, till it’s over, but lightning doesn’t often strike Arsenal twice.
Possible Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Cech, Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Debuchy, Coquelin, Ramsey, Cazorla, Walcott, Ozil, Giroud.
- The FA Cup winners have only won one of the last five Community Shield matches, though this was Arsenal in last yeara s game.
- The Gunners have gone 482 minutes without a goal against Chelsea.
- Arsenal have won their last four games at the new Wembley, after failing to win any of the first three (D1 L2). They did beat Wigan on penalties in that drawn result, however.
- Neither side has failed to score in games at the new Wembley Stadium (Arsenal a 7 games, Chelsea a 13 games).
- The Blues have won eight of their 13 games at the new Wembley (D2 L3). Theya ve won once and lost once on penalties following those two draws
Players to watch
Having only let in a single goal all pre-season, Cech looks in fine form to protect the Arsenal goal and organise its defence.
Cech will serve as the veritable ace up Wenger’s sleeve, as he is well accustomed to the abilities and nuances of most of Chelsea’s attack. While past experience may not have much to do when push comes to shove, Cech has more in-depth knowledge of Hazard and Costa. Knowledge that he will no doubt share with the rest of the team.
While Cech will uphold his duties firmly against his old club, players like Branislav Ivanovic have urged the supporters to show him the utmost respect.
Cech has also played more Community Shield matches than any other player his side, and has successfully led his team to victory in a penalty shootout against Manchester United, showing that he is indeed prepared for any eventuality.
Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1
While Arsenal have enjoyed a more fruitful pre-season, Mourinho is well aware of Wenger’s tactics whenever their sides come head to head.
Chelsea might edge them in quality, but Arsenal will prove a stern test. Mourinho’s Chelsea will hope to retain the Premier League crown, and a victory over their fierce rivals could prove the perfect start.