Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are set to face reigning Premier League champions, Liverpool, in the FA Community Shield game tonight at Wembley.
The Premier League launchpad, otherwise known as the FA Community Shield, has become a slightly unwelcome distraction at a time when football is still without crowds and doesn’t know if it’s coming, going, or been. Weeks after the extended season finished, the sides involved have hardly been able to draw breath before playing in a fairly pointless curtain-raiser, for a very large silver platter.
Jose Mourinho considered this to be a trophy in his patchy tenancy of Manchester United, but you won’t find many fans boasting about winning it in the modern era. It’s hardly a competition as such, more of a concocted final between football’s high achievers and those that finished first or 8th in this case.
If it was between the Premier League Champions and the second-placed team, then it would have more credibility but someone at the FA needs to authorise an urgent rethink of its relevance and who competes for it.
Winning the FA Cup allows a side to thankfully leapfrog the competition to take part in the second tier of European football, but it also places them in a final that is normally just an excuse to extract more money from the fans.
Pessimism aside, it does give Arsenal a nice pre-season workout against a Liverpool side that romped to the Premier League title, even if it’s unlikely to be at full strength.
The Mirror claims that Jordan Henderson, Joel Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Harry Wilson, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Divock Origi will not be available for selection but apart from Henderson, the others only feature intermittently for the Merseysiders.
Mikel Arteta is looking to experiment before the more important competitions begin and Jurgen Klopp will also be looking at a few candidates who may play some role in the long season ahead, even if it is peripheral.
Arsenal haven’t completed all their transfers in or out of the club and the side that starts at Wembley isn’t going to be the one that competes every week for the Premier League. Arteta’s puzzle is incomplete and hinges on sales to make purchases. Even the Aubameyang deal is waiting for the final balance sheet to hit the boardroom table.
As for the Arsenal vs Liverpool Community Shield match, it looks like Leno will be in goal, Saliba, Luiz/Holding will comprise the back three. Soares could force his way into the starting lineup with Elneny and Xhaka anchoring the middle. I’d prefer some more creativity but from where? Maitland-Niles could snap up a place on the left-hand side, but I’d swap him or Elneny for a fit and firing Willian.
Upfront, it surely has to be Saka, Aubameyang, and Nketiah but I still reserve doubts about young Eddie, even when he continuously proves me wrong by pooping in the odd goal. I’d prefer Lacazette to give the Liverpool back-line a merry dance but it appears, he may not be in North London much longer. If Holding is to be sold, I’d much rather see what Mark McGuinness is made of against stiffer opposition.
What sort of game will it be? Well contested, with a little bit of extra spice because of Arsenal’s win against Liverpool towards the end of last season.
Arsenal will look to their front trio to get the advantage by putting balls over the top or down the flanks. Liverpool will look to overwhelm a weak Arsenal midfield through the middle and hit the Gunners hard on the counter.
This game will show Arteta how short he is in terms of personnel, but we already know that he is way short during what will be a busy season. To be honest, as keen as Arteta will be to win this as a piece of silverware, it may make Arsenal’s owner think that major investment isn’t a priority when it certainly is.
Winning the real trophies is the goal and Arsenal can’t do that without bringing in a quality midfielder who can influence a game. Arteta has the makings of a fairly decent side developing, but failure to put the engine in the car will result in a lot of wasted energy by pushing the vehicle’s shell along on the open road.
Could Aubameyang be the deciding factor in this contest as he was in the FA Cup final? Service will be key if that’s the case, but he looked a bit out of salts against MK Dons recently. Optimistically, form rarely means much at his level.
Preferred Side For The Arsenal vs Liverpool Community Shield Game: Leno; Saliba, McGuinness, Tierney,
Soares; Willian, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Saka, Aubameyang, Pepe.
Probable Side For The Arsenal vs Liverpool Community Shield Game: Leno; Saliba, Holding, Tierney,
Soares; Elneny, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Saka, Nketiah, Aubameyang.
Predicted Score: 2-1
Keep the faith Gooners.