Perceived as the unofficial curtain raiser to the start of the season, this year’s Community Shield sees a repeat of the last club match hosted at Wembley Stadium as FA Cup holders Arsenal take on defeated finalists and Premier League champions Chelsea.
Indeed, this is the second occasion in the past three seasons in which these two clubs have met in the week before the season. In 2015, it was Arsenal who came out on top, as an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain strike proved to be enough to seal a 1-0 victory, much to the satisfaction of Arsene Wenger who in turn enjoyed a rare victory over Jose Mourinho.
After completing their respective pre-season schedules, this will be the first time fans will get to look at their side’s new signings in a semi-competitive environment.
Eyes will be naturally drawn to Alexandre Lacazette to see what sort of impact the Frenchman can have against the Chelsea defence, while early impressions of Sead Kolasinic tend to suggest he could prove to be a shrewd signing from Wenger.
As for Chelsea, Alvaro Morata will dominate attention, while Antonio Rudiger will be looking to feature in defence following his arrival from Roma this summer. Tiemoue Bakayoko is ruled out with a knee injury.
This will be the fifth time Arsenal have competed in the Community Shield since its rebrand and the Gunners have enjoyed success in the showpiece event, winning in three of their last four attempts. Chelsea, on the other hand, have tasted defeat in four of their last six appearances in the final, with themselves and Arsenal losing and winning one apiece in their two meetings since 2005.
An unfancied Arsenal stunned the Blues at Wembley in the FA Cup final – handing Wenger a record sixth victory in the competition in the process – and will be looking to do so once again. The Gunners have stuck with the 3-4-3 formation which carried success at the end of last season and are likely to match up identically to their counterparts this Sunday.
This won’t be the first time the two clubs have met during the off-season, having gone toe-to-toe in Beijing during their tours of Asia. Chelsea came out comprehensive winners that day, thanks to a strike from Willian and a Michy Batshuayi double.
One of the most fascinating components of this contest will be the part played by Alexis Sanchez, who despite having less than a year to run on his contract is yet to sign a fresh deal and has made no indication that he will do so. Arsenal’s firm stance on the player is admirable, but the version of Sanchez they will enjoy this season remains to be seen.
While the Community Shield is far from the be-all and end-all and will ultimately have little reflection on the overall campaign, it is a game neither side will want to lose and the added spice of a London derby should make it an interesting affair nonetheless. Sparks tend to fly when these two clubs meet and expect no different this time around.
Predicted Arsenal lineup: Cech; Holding, Koscielny, Monreal; Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Ozil, Sanchez; Lacazette
Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Pedro; Batshuayi