Arsenal 1 – 1 Chelsea
Arsenal win 4 – 1 on penalties
So there you have it. Nine unbeaten at Wembley and another trophy won at Tottenham’s home ground. Sunday afternoon’s in pre-season don’t get better than this. It’s a sign of the times that a winner must be declared so penalties decided the occasion. For the best part of a century, sharing the rewards of football’s charity match was good enough but not anymore.
Surprisingly, Arsenal’s spot kicks were perfect in every way. The best Chelsea excuse I’ve seen was that Thibault Courtois wasn’t supposed to take a penalty and cocked up his moment of glory. Which is a fine theory except his name was on the list of penalty takers given to the referee. Still, at least we know where his ball landed:
Arsène has plenty of positives to take from the performance, as well as a few extra hours on the training pitch to get everyone up to speed. The team looked as sharp as you might expect at this stage of the pre-season with the later returning players still with a bit more work to do.
At the end of 90 minutes, a draw seemed to be a reasonable reflection of the game. We were the better side in the first half – Alexandre Lacazette was unfortunate not to score when his shot rattled the post – while Chelsea had the better of the start of the second.
Victor Moses’ goal was down to poor marking from a set-play; bad habits die hard. Which could be title of the next film in the franchise, with a zombie Alan Rickman taking the lead role. Surefire hit, covering off the popular bases thanks to The Walking Dead.
Anyway, Moses goal. Poor marking which the makeshift defence must deal with before Friday, particularly if Per isn’t fit.
Kolasinac, The Wonder Horse
If Oleg Luhzny took the nickname “Horse”, what for Sead Kolasinac? Chelsea had no answer to the strong run and powerful header. It was due reward for the overall performance. The bleating goes on about whether it was a red or yellow for Pedro which led to the free kick but I don’t see any other decision than the sending off meted out. It was late, dangerous and made no attempt to win the ball. Fortunately, we were spared the sight of Mohamed Elneny being stretchered off but that was more down to luck than judement.
If it had been Granit Xhaka committing the tackle, the media would demand he be tarred, feathered, dragged through the streets of London and then hung, drawn and quartered at Traitor’s Gate. No mercy, clemency or appeal. But it was Pedro, the masked man, and his happy-go-lucky smiley ways convince everyone that it wasn’t intended. When a boot lands that squarely on an opponent’s Achilles, it was intended.
I haven’t yet seen it but someone somewhere must be promulgating the theory that his mask slipped and he couldn’t see what he was doing.
Yet again, Chelsea found themselves at the centre of a diving controversy at Wembley. The older generation will remember the Empire Pool but there hasn’t been events there for half-a-century. Wil.I.an was adjudged to be a transgressor and deciding whether that was deliberate or not was a tough job.
It wasn’t a foul but the question of whether he deliberately clipped his own heels is impossible to answer. It’s a difficult skill to master, coming to most of us only when excess alcohol is imbibed. At full pelt on a football pitch and ensuring the landing doesn’t cause injury? That would take hours of practice at Cobham.
Intensity And Quality
Arsène thought both teams contributed to a good match. Obviously, he happier with the Arsenal performance than had we lost, declaring that “the performance is a continuity of what we did at the end of last season.”
Perhaps. Certainly, the adaptability in defence and doggedness but he offered the right sense of caution lest anyone get too carried away with win. Lifting the Community Shield was “an encouragement and nothing more than that”, as we head into the new season.
Wenger is mindful of previous good pre-season results, knowing they don’t translate into good starts to the season. The manager observed,
“We want to find a good balance between the confidence we can get out of these games and the urgency that every Premier League game demands. We had some bad starts in the first game of the Premier League over the last four years but we’ve had the intensity in our games that is needed to be ready. Let’s go into the Premier League with the same discipline, the same spirit, and see where we can go.”
Presumably, we were one of the “seven or eight teams” he thought were in the race for the title before a ball is kicked in anger. I think we’re still a central midfielder away from being that team. We shall see; were football so easy to predict, it would be a dull sport indeed.
But it isn’t – on either count – and the “big kick-off” is now just 5 days away. Let the butterflies gather, ready to flutter at the start of a new season.