Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal finally registered a win over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. A sublime left footed curler from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a dogged defensive performance saw Arsenal claim their first piece of silverware this season.
The proverbial pigs will fly this season.
After years of unsuccessful attempts, verbal taunts and mind games, Arsene Wenger has finally pulled one over Jose Mourinho, as his side defeated the blues 1-0 at Wembley.
The Gunners had great momentum coming into the game, and proved the more cohesive of the two teams. While Chelsea carved their chances, Arsenal took theirs when it mattered.
Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over Manchester City in last season’s Community Shield didn’t serve as a harbinger of success, as the Gunners were far from challenging from the title. This season around, their win, though not as emphatic, carries with it a much grander sense of accomplishment. Besting a fully fit Chelsea side will do wonders for Arsenal’s confidence, and provide them with the belief that they should aim for first, and nothing else.
The Gunner’s starting line-up would have had most people perplexed, as Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. After 500 goal-less minutes against Chelsea however, it took 24 minutes for Arsenal to make the decisive breakthrough, through exactly those three men.
Walcott peeled away from the Chelsea defence and picked up the ball 25 yards out before quickly moving it into the feet of Oxlade-Chamberlain. The latter then cut into the penalty area from the right wing and shifted past Azpilicueta before unleashing a inch perfect left-footed curler into the top left hand corner of Courtois’ goal.
Chelsea responded with aplomb and should have been level nine minutes before the break. Ramires somehow contrived to nod Loic Remy’s arced cross from the left over Cech’s crossbar from six yards. Not content, the Brazilian then spun around Coquelin with ease before trying to curl a 25-yard strike into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal, flying just past the post. Arsenal aimed to cap off a splendid first half performance through Chamberlain, needing goal line intervention from Branislav Ivanovic to keep Chelsea in the hunt.
Drawing an uncharacteristic blank, Mourinho then chose to field summer signing Radamel Falcao in an attempt to sharpen his side’s cutting edge. But it was two of Chelsea’s stars from last season who created their best chances of the second half.
Fabregas picked out Hazard in the inside-right channel, but the off-colour Belgian could only blaze his shot over the bar from 10 yards.
Petr Cech was always going to be a key figure in this fixture, playing his first real game for the gunners against his former club. He proceeded to prove just why he is far from over, as a series of timely interceptions, and a crucial save from as Oscar free-kick kept the advantage firmly with Arsenal.
The Gunners missed two late opportunities to put the game to bed, with Santi Cazorla first and then Kieran Gibbs missing when clean through against Courtois, who closed down the angle well and devoured the shots.
Chelsea continued to press in their search for an equaliser, but with Costa absent and Hazard unable to conjure his usual magic, Mourinho’s proud record against Wenger never hardly look like being maintained.
Arsenal’s fluid attack and dogged defense were in reality a simple exemplification of an in-form side with a fully fit team.
Their ability to win, without talismanic wide-man Alexis Sanchez would give Arsene Wenger great confidence moving into the next season. The Copa America winner often carried the Gunners on his shoulders throughout the season. When he did run out of energy however, Walcott, Cazorla and Coquelin stepped up to provide Arsenal with a respectable finish.
The win might not irk Mourinho more than throwing his second place medal, but question marks still linger over some facets of Chelsea’s game. While Mourinho had claimed that Eden Hazard had performed better than Cristiano Ronaldo last season. If much of the pre-season and the Community Shield are anything to go by, the comparison is still hyperbolic. The goal, while virtually unstoppable, still came out of a strange lack of positional awareness. Chelsea had five players in the box, and yet, only one had half an eye out for the incoming Chamberlain. While it may not be a sign of things to come, switching off in a big game against a close rival is something Mourinho will be keen to avoid.
Mourinho might want to ease off on the taunts and titles, because with two back-to-back FA Cups and Community Shields, Wenger’s Arsenal are exhibiting a hunger that has been a long time coming.