Usually described as the traditional curtain raiser to a Premier League season, the Community Shield is usually treated as a ‘friendly at Wembley’ despite the superstitious links that draw correlation between the Shield winner & League winner. This time around, it was Premier League holders Chelsea facing off against FA Cup holders Arsenal. Arsenal held the edge as they had won 3 out of the last 4 meetings between the two with the latest two being at Wembley. Neither sides were having brilliant windows thus far as Antonio Conte was sure to be frustrated at missing out on key targets whilst Arsene Wenger’s future signings largely depend on outgoings from within the club.
Lack of Chelsea creativity
In the picture above, Pedro goes on the outside of the defender making a shot or pass to a teammate harder. In the same scenario Eden Hazard would usually cut inside in order to put defenders off balance thus giving him a better chance at scoring. It was difficault for Chelsea to adequately replace their creator in chief as he is simply a cut above any other attackers they have. Supported by his 16 goals & 5 assists in the league last year, his impact was definitely missed as Pedro, Willian & (later on) Musonda all failed to provide a similar spark to the Belgian. The only positive from this was for Arsenal, as they could release Hector Bellerin further forward knowing that they wouldn’t be punished as much as they could’ve. Various missed chances by Chelsea truly showcased how wasteful they can be without Eden Hazard (& to a further extent the shunned Diego Costa). Had Chelsea somehow won this game, the hole on the wing may never have been noticed.
Ten man Chelsea made to pay
When Pedro was sent off in the 80th minute, the Blues were forced to play the remainder of the game with 10 men. This forced Conte to adjust Chelsea’s default defensive shape of a 5-4-1 to a 5-3-1, the difference being that it would mimic a 5-3-2 or a 5-4-1 depending on the position of the ball. It also meant that Chelsea had one less attacker & an experienced on at that, as Charly Musonda was only on the bench due to the club’s lack of depth. This left it harder for Chelsea to create attacks without being open to a counter meaning they would find it harder to reset their defensive block should they go forward too high up. This pegged Chelsea back for the remainder of the game and the physically & aerially imposing Arsenal side caused Chelsea to be more susceptible to a long ball during extra time. In addition, had Pedro stayed on he may have been a penalty taker during the shootout, reliving Courtois the shame of such a bizzare penalty miss.
With Azplicueta playing next to Victor Moses as opposed to Marcos Alonso, this left Chelsea’s right side considerably shorter than the left. This meant that Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi & Olivier Giroud all targeted the right half-space in order to find space & bring the ball down easier. Although they were at a height disadvantage, Moses would occasionally hang back 2-3 yards further back than the rest of Chelsea’s defensive line which allowed Welbeck to connect with Granit Xhaka’s lofted pass. When you are being dominated physically or aerially it is essential that communication is kept at a maximum but with Chelsea being disorganised throughout, the constant bickering between Azpilicueta & Moses did nothing to help their cause. Unless Chelsea can re-discover their rugged defensive nature, more teams will find it easier to break the relationships between Chelsea’s wing backs & wide centre backs.
Although it will be a huge boost for Arsenal, the real work will begin with the opening Premier League game on Friday night at home to Leicester. Chelsea meanwhile will have to pick themselves up & dust themselves off as the transfer window waits for no man. Bring the players in & work can be done but if the targets are not acquired, then Conte may face his own ‘Mourinho season’.