Arsenal vs Chelsea | Sunday 02 August | Wembley Stadium | 16:00
Chelsea and Arsenal meet in the Community Shield on Sunday in an all-London affair with both sides looking to notch a win and the first trophy available. This encounter should provide a real indication as to how close both teams could come to claiming the Premier League title in 2015/16.
To Win (90mins)
Progress has been the key word around the Emirates Stadium over the past few seasons, as Arsenal have won back-to-back FA Cups and finished third in the Premier League last season. The Gunners will be looking to up the ante this time and aim to challenge for the coveted crown as champions of England. The energy they have shown in pre-season was simply a continuation of where they left off at the end of 2014/15 and they look ready to capitalise on what they’ve already built. The capture of Petr Cech adds a world-class goalkeeper to the ranks at last but also suggests that, after years of chasing a seemingly impossible dream from the front, Wenger has realised the value of a rock-solid foundation. Cech left the champions to secure regular first team football and he will bring a considerable presence to the Arsenal defence that was too often seen as brittle when it really mattered. He is a proven winner, and his arrival could be the catalyst for a run at the league title this season.
The Gunners will be without star player Alexis Sanchez due to Chile’s prolonged participation in the Copa America, but there are still many dangerous players and huge scoring threats in this team. Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla will be Arsenal’s driving force from the midfield. Cazorla brings creativity and invention to Wenger’s side and he could be a menace for Chelsea on Sunday. Mesut Ozil should be primed to make a significant impact this season. The German international has been one of Arsenal’s standout performers in pre-season. Now accustomed to the rigours of the English game, he ought to be in a far better position to make his presence felt in the Premier League.
Chelsea bossed the top flight last term and came home eight points ahead of their closest challengers Manchester City. From the beginning of their league campaign the Blues seemed to take control and never really let up, only losing three times. After adding striker Radamel Falcao to an attacking arsenal that already included Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho appears poised to repeat as champions, a feat no squad’s completed since Manchester United in 2009. However, Chelsea have won back-to-back league titles before (2004/05 and 2005/06), coincidently under the guidance of Mourinho.
Former Arsenal hero Cesc Fabregas will be Chelsea’s main ingredient for creativity and will be expected to dictate the tempo and style of the Blues’ attacks. The Spaniard’s hard work and defensive discipline, which he has now added to his game under Mourinho, coupled with his perpetual eye for a defence-splitting pass, makes him one of the most dangerous midfielders in the league. Hazard tore apart the Premiership at times during the 2014/15 season, scoring nineteen goals and winning Footballer of the Year whilst doing so. Hazard brings the magic that can win matches in one action and has the flair and artist's touch. He has a great burst of pace, quick feet, and very good agility, all of which allows him to breeze past opposition defenders. Hazard will once again be the driving force behind any success that the Blues are to have this coming season. Up front, Costa gives the team an unshakeable focal point. The Spanish international scored twenty goals last term and he’ll be hoping to bully Arsenal’s defence.
VERDICT: Chelsea 27/20
The Blues have had the better of the Gunners in recent years having won ten of their last fifteen encounters, suffering defeat on just two occasions. Mourinho also has an unbeaten record against Wenger to maintain, with the Portuguese never having lost to the Gunners boss in thirteen previous games. Also, without Sanchez in the team, Chelsea should prove too strong. London will be blue this weekend.