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Arsenal began the 2017/18 season with a silverware as they defeated Premier League champions Chelsea 4-1 on penalties (1-1 at full-time), to win the FA Community Shield.
Chelsea’s team was pretty much as everyone predicted, with Thibaut Courtois in goal and the trio of Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill in front of him. The flanks were manned by Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso, while N’Golo Kante partnered Cesc Fabregas in the middle of the park. Michy Batshuayi was the chosen striker ahead of summer signing Alvaro Morata, and the Belgian was partnered by Willian and Pedro on the flanks.
Arsene Wenger did throw a few surprises our way by dropping the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny. Young Rob Holding started alongside Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal in the backline in front of Petr Cech, with Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain playing as the wing-backs. Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka were preferred in the midfield, with record signing Alexandre Lacazette leading the line, flanked by Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck.
Both the sides started the game on a bright note, but it was the Gunners who created the first real chance when Iwobi ran past several Chelsea defenders to produce a cutback, which Lacazette couldn’t finish. Soon after, Welbeck headed straight at Courtois, after Xhaka picked him out with a lovely long ball from the midfield. They continued to cause all sorts of trouble for the Premier League champions, with Iwobi looking particularly dangerous.
Fabregas and Pedro tried to break in behind the Gunners’ defence, but that final piece was missing for the Blues. But, it was Arsenal again who came so very close, after a lovely piece of link up play between Lacazette, Bellerin and Welbeck, only for the Frenchman to hit the woodwork.
An accidental elbow from Chelsea captain Cahiil caught his Arsenal counterpart Mertesacker’s face, leaving him all bloodied on the ground, resulting in him being taken off to be replaced by new signing Sead Kolasinac. Moses had an effort saved by Cech near the half-hour mark and Pedro tested the former Chelsea man with a thumping drive, but was denied. Willian was then rightly booked for a dive in the box, after Bellerin’s poor touch had allowed him a way in on goal.
With half-time approaching, Iwobi caused more concerns to the Chelsea defence, after a driving run into the box, but could only fire his shot straight at Courtois, as the half ended with the scoreline intact.
The second period was off to breezing start, as Chelsea took the lead within a minute of the restart, as Moses reacted the fastest and finished with aplomb, after Arsenal failed to deal with a corner. The tempo took off from thereon, with Arsenal piling on the pressure as Elneny had a fierce cross/shot saved by Courtois. With the Gunners not finding a way behind the Blues defence, Xhaka decided to unleash a blistering shot from over 30 yards out, only to see it get tipped over the bar brilliantly by Courtois.
Chelsea went a man down in the 80th minute, after Pedro was sent off for a poor studs-up tackle from behind on Elneny. Arsenal went on level terms from the resulting free-kick after Xhaka picked Kolasinac in the box and the new boy buried his header in the back of the net. There were chances for both the sides towards the end of the game, but it eventually went to the penalty shootout.
The new ‘ABBA’ penalty shootout format was put to test on the day. First up it was Chelsea, with Cahill scoring comfortably, before substitute Theo Walcott and Monreal made it 2-1 in favour of the Gunners. Disaster ensued thereafter as Courtois stepped up to take the second penalty and fired high over the bar, before Morata hit the outside of the post, leaving Chelsea on the brink of a loss. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud converted from the spot to send the Arsenal fans into overdrive.
It was an entertaining match and Wenger will be mighty pleased with his team’s performance, who looked a much better team than their opponents on the day. Conte, on the other hand, will not be very happy and he might also have a thing or two to say about the referee too. For now, it is Arsenal who have drawn first blood in the season and have added another trophy to their cabinet.
Here we take a look at some of the best reactions on social media from the fans.
— CMAFRESH (@cmafresh) August 6, 2017
— Boring… (@graphicalcomic) August 6, 2017
Courtois before he took the Penalty
— #9jaWitches (@badgalmaddie_) August 6, 2017
This new Penalty format is just awful #CommunityShield
— Social_Ustax (@gmaster4real) August 6, 2017
can't believe we managed to lose the Community Shield to Arsenal lol promising start to the season…
— Owen (@owenjp1) August 6, 2017
Not a trophy
— fatringer (@fatringer) August 6, 2017
— Law®en©e™ (@LMwihrury) August 6, 2017
Why are people talking to me about this game, it's just the community shield smh
— Izzy Batshuayi (@its_ya_boy_izzy) August 6, 2017
— James Stephen Rowe (@rowejamesrowe) August 6, 2017
— zigzaga (@AbubakrEdi) August 6, 2017