If you’re a superstitious Chelsea supporter, Sunday’s FA Community Shield did nothing to allay any fears you may have going in to this upcoming Premier League season.
Arsenal, having defeated Chelsea in the FA Cup Final back in May, triumphed again over the Blues at Wembley Stadium, seeing off their London rivals on penalties after normal time ended 1-1.
For Chelsea supporters, bad omens linger everywhere. It was two years ago in this very match that Chelsea entered as reigning Premier League champions were defeated 1-0 by Arsenal, the reigning holders of the FA Cup.
That defeat set off a chain of events that saw the sacking of Jose Mourinho and a tumultuous campaign that ended in a 10th place finish.
It’s hard to imagine history repeating itself, but on the basis of Chelsea’s performance on Sunday, a few alarm bells may be ringing.
Chelsea’s substitutes bench looked shorn of experienced depth, especially with the absences of Tiemoue Bakayoko and Eden Hazard, and the team on the pitch looked less than sharp after a fairly short preseason.
Although the Blues did control the ball well for the opening few minutes, they failed to create any real chances.
Arsenal, however, didn’t look rattled by their lack of possession, and six minutes in Arsenal’s new signing Alexandre Lacazette nearly opened the scoring with his first goal for the Gunners. Alex Iwobi beat David Luiz to the byline, and Thibault Courtois just got a finger on the cut back as Lacazette was lurking in the area.
Danny Welbeck had a glorious chance to put Arsenal ahead just minute later when he ghosted between Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses to connect with a lobbed pass from Granit Xhaka, but his header only found the arms of Courtois.
The absence of Eden Hazard was quite noticeable, as Chelsea seemed to lack that little bit of sparkle in the final third, and their first chance didn’t arrive until the 31st minute when Victor Moses found space towards the byline and fizzed a cross that Petr Cech had to parry.
Chelsea thought they had a valid penalty claim on 37 minutes when Willian went to ground, but referee Bobby Madley booked the Brazilian for simulation, much to Willian’s bemusement. Replays showed it was a wrong decision, as either Hector Bellerin made slight contact with Willian or Willian simply tripped himself.
The Blues certainly made a better start in the second half and took the lead just a minute in. Arsenal failed to clear a corner, and Gary Cahill’s looped header found Victor Moses’ expertly timed run, and Moses fired past Cech for the opener.
Later in the second half, Xhaka took aim from 30 yards out with a well-struck effort that Courtois had to parry around the post.
Referee Madley had another big decision in the 83rd minute when Pedro was sent off for a poor challenge on Mohamed Elneny. Pedro’s attempt to win the ball was late and his studs caught Elneny on the back of the leg. There could be few complaints.
Compounding the misery, Sead Kolasinac’s header from the ensuing free kick produced the Arsenal equaliser, and it was off to the lottery of penalties.
The new ABBA format for penalty kicks was on trial at this year’s Community Shield, and after back-to-back misses from Courtois and Alvaro Morata, the stage was set for Olivier Giroud to fire past Courtois and win the Community Shield for the Gunners.