Arsenal (1) 1 Liverpool (0) 1
(Arsenal win 5-4 on penalties)
FA Community Shield
Wembley Stadium, Wembley, London HA9 0WS
Saturday, 29th August 2020. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Emiliano Martínez; Rob Holding, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, William Saliba, Cédric Soares, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Sead Kolašinac, Emile Smith-Rowe, Tyreece John-Jules, James Olayinka.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (12 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 40%
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).
Assistant Referees: Mark Scholes (Berks and Bucks) and Marc Perry (Birmingham)
Fourth Official: Andrew Madley (West Riding)
Reserve Assistant Referee: Dan Robathan (Norfolk)
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR David Coote (Nottinghamshire); AVAR Dan Cook (Hampshire)
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions
This is going to be such a strange start to the new season. A mere six days after the Champions League Final, and a fortnight before a ball is kicked in anger at any Premiership match, the curtain opener formerly known as the Charity Shield is upon us, just twenty-nine days after our superb victory in the FA Cup Final against Chelsea in this very stadium. Still, it is what it is (to paraphrase popular parlance) and for our fourth appearance in this oft-derided competition against Liverpool, (the Premiership champions of course), we welcome back Mohamed Elneny, who spent last season on loan at Besiktas in Turkey. Unfortunately, Alexandre Lacazette, Willian nor Nicolas Pépé are available for selection today, however William Saliba is listed as one of the substitutes, so it is possible that he could make his debut for the club at some point during the proceedings.
The opening minutes of the match were fairly pedestrian, which as expected, saw both sides test each other in order to exploit any possible weaknesses; despite Liverpool getting the ball in our net (which was quite rightly cancelled out by the VAR team for offside), it was us that opened the scoring with a superb goal in the twelfth minute. Collecting a superb pass up on the left wing from Bukayo Saka, our top striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slotted an inch perfect shot past Alisson from outside of the penalty area with his right foot. A few mintues later, we almost scored a second, when Bukayo Saka passed unselfishly to Eddie Nketiah, whose low twenty yard short was pushed around the post by the Liverpool goalkeeper. Despite Liverpool coming back at us, we held our shape extremely well under pressure, and the defence were doing a sterling job in neutralising our opponents’ strikers and midfield players. Although the ball appeared to be in our half for most of the first half, in the minutes before the break, we created more chances for ourselves, and we went into the break deservedly leading the match by a goal.
The game started to open up in the second half, and although both sides had their chances, it was Arsenal who looked more organised and controlled. Excitingly, nine minutes after the restart, the magnificent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang simply took the ball from Virgil van Dijk and ran forty yards before slotting the ball to Bukayo Saka, who let the ball run away from him, which was a good chance missed. Hector Bellerin made way for Cédric Soares just after the hour, and the lads carried on as usual, with the same shape and direction. Bukayo Saka was unlucky not to score when a superb pass from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found him again unmarked on the right, and sadly a couple of minutes later, a mix-up in the six-yard box led to Takumi Minamino equalising for Liverpool from close range with eighteen minutes of the game remaining. Liverpool fancied their chances now, and applied considerable pressure on us, which we were able to withstand very well, but with eight minutes of the game left, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Sead Kolasinac replaced Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Kieran Tierney, just to get some fresh legs on the pitch. Joe Willock went wide with a glancing header, and despite all this and more, penalties were destined to settle this match. We are well versed enough to understand that in the wonderful world of English football, the equation is simple: nervous footballer + penalty kick = heartbreak. But not this time for us. All five of our penalty takers (Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Cédric Soares, David Luiz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang) were cool, calm and extremely collected, and on sheer nerves of steel alone, these men ensured that our captain lifted the trophy for the sixteenth time in ninety years. And funnily enough, we have now won more trophies this month than our dear “friends” at N17 have won in over twenty years!
Well, just how good was that! We have now all seen a glimpse of the future under Mikel Arteta, and if everything falls into place as we hope it does, then we can surely look forward to a bright and successful future. Obviously we all hope that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang signs his contract, and that Ainsley Maitland-Niles stays as well; it is becoming patently obvious that Mikel Arteta is creating a team in his own image, and with the confidence that winning trophies can bring, the forthcoming season should be an interesting one indeed. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday, 12th September at 3.00pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.