The Community Shield. What a friendly concept. Designed to raise a little for charity by pitting the season’s best against each other. But really, is it an important match at all? I mean, most people don’t even know to which season it belongs. Is it the culmination of an entire league season and a cup campaign, and as such the last game of the 05/06 Season? Or is it, as its timing would claim in order to increase interest, the first game of the 06/07 Season, in spite of it having no bearing on events to follow? Does it have any importance other than as a novelty fundraiser? Who can say? Well, frankly that depends on who wins. So the answer is no. It doesn’t. And that’s that.
In what had intended to be an exercise in gloating I watched the game back in West London with two friends who supported Liverpool and a so-called ‘impartial’ girlfriend. It seemed to me that Liverpool’s poor pre-season form and a first run around for our new Ukrainian and German signings spelt something of a foregone conclusion. Time to dish out some payback for the Champions League exit. The only blip in the plan was a little trouble with Gallas at the back but that didn’t matter since a keeper like Cudicini would relish the opportunity to show how he’s in fact of starting eleven quality.
So, unsurprisingly, initial conversation went something along the lines of…
“The trouble with Chelsea is that they’re all superstars, they don’t play as a team; there are too many individuals.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“They’re the new Galacticos, and we all know what happened to them.”
“They won the Champions League?”
“They fell apart.”
“Yes well, Liverpool have got Crouchy up front, so they’re never going to win anything.”
“He may be pants but he’s better than the Drog.”
“I thought you were supposed to be impartial.”
It wasn’t long before I was eating my words. Both my super-keeps Carlo and my reliable underachiever Crouch had put paid to any hopes I’d had of gloating. I suppose that serves me right, but in the end I was resorting to: who cares about the Community Shield? Nobody even knows which season it belongs to.
Yet in spite of spilt milk, I found a couple of things worthy of remark during Sunday’s game. The first is Andriy Shevchenko. The ease with which he scored his equalising goal, one touch (with his chest) controlling a long pass in such a fashion that it put him past two defenders, through on goal and gave him enough time to look up and slide the ball past the keeper, was exactly what any Chelsea fan wanted to see. Now don’t get me wrong, Drogba serves the club wonderfully. It’s just that when the Drog scores he always manages to make it look like a fluke, like he didn’t really know what was going on. Yet he does it so often that it can’t be fluke, can it? Who knows? Certainly not Andy Gray, whose commentary technique seems to consist of asking questions the answers to which even he doesn’t know:
“Was he off-side? Eeh, Ah don’t know.”
“Did he mean to do that? Well… Mahbe.”
But one thing is for sure, just because something is great, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. Take for example the patent-pending Joe Cornish concept of the Thrix (the three fingered Twix) and the slightly more controversial, non-patent pending, scented cocaine, but that probably can’t be printed. The point is that just because Chelsea are the best in England doesn’t mean they shouldn’t strive to get better, and Shevchenko is the man for the job.
Secondly, the match has provided Chelsea with their very own nemesis. Liverpool, in winning another head to head, have made Rafa Benitez into Jose’s archrival. And this is by no means a bad thing. Ever since the influx of sestercii Chelsea have become the team to beat in England. In the same way as Liverpool dominated the eighties and Man U the nineties, they look set to dominate this decade. This brings with it two sides: a burgeoning fanbase for the future, as kids all over the country sign their lifelong allegiance to the Blues; but also by making them outstanding favourites they become the team that previous ‘impartials’ want to see lose. The typical English trait of supporting the underdog means that even if you don’t care about football, you want to see Chelsea beaten. They’re the best there is, and as such every team wants to get the better of them. Every team will up their game when the Blues come to town. Of course, this comes as no great surprise, that’s what you have to expect as champions.
But what of Chelsea? Against whom are they to up their game? By virtue of being twice champions, both times with relative ease, they have no immediate competitors. No team against which every player strives instinctively to raise his game. No team until now, it would seem. A team of individuals you say? My guess is that the tie of the season for Chelsea will not be Man U or even Arsenal, but at Anfield, where manager and ‘superstar players’ alike will play not just for points, but for pride. Oh, that and of course the inevitable Coca-Cola Cup tie with dirty, smelly Leeds.