Arsenal and Liverpool can be forgiven for thinking their trophy celebrations have been short-lived, but not long after the curtain dropped to signal the end of a prolonged 2019-20 season, it is time to raise it again. The show must go on.
Whatever your feelings towards the Community Shield – whether it be viewed as a pointless pre-season friendly, a legitimate piece of silverware or somewhere ranging in between – it is a game that signals the start of something new. A fresh start, if you like.
This fixture is a forerunner for what is to come, a moment when even those fans of Premier League clubs not involved suddenly realise what is just around the corner.
This year, though, it feels like an almighty scramble to be ready on time.
Even Liverpool could be a little under-cooked, despite an intense training camp in the Austrian mountains with a squad that has seen minimal changes during the transfer window – so far, at least.
Adam Lallana – a Jurgen Klopp favourite who barely featured in the previous campaign – and Dejan Lovren have moved on. Others could depart by October 6, albeit most likely fringe options cut away as the club trim the fat in an ever-changing economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) August 27, 2020
There has been one new addition so far in Konstantinos Tsimikas, a left-back signed with the idea of easing the burden on Andy Robertson. Rumours suggest Thiago Alcantara may also arrive from Bayern Munich, adding an altogether different cog to a midfield unit that is so crucial to how the team functions.
How the Spaniard fits into the system is a tactical theme to ponder at a later date. Instead, Klopp will send out an XI full of familiar faces to try and pick up from where they left off, aiming to show there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it already turns so smoothly.
“Would I want to play a proper game after two weeks’ preparation? No,” Klopp said on the eve of the fixture. “But it’s not a friendly, it’s a proper match against Arsenal.”
While Liverpool seem in a strong position for the first of many “proper” matches in what is a condensed fixture list, Arsenal are a work in progress – and time is against them.
At least the Gunners have an advantage in that they have experienced what it is like to play at an empty Wembley, though, as they upset Manchester City and Chelsea there to lift the FA Cup.
Those results delivered a first for Mikel Arteta, as he secured a trophy less than eight months since taking the plunge and choosing to return. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the hero, scoring twice, and remained the centre of attention in the aftermath, post-match press conferences held on Zoom dominated by talk of the forward’s future.
That was early August. Now, as the month nears a conclusion, Arteta continues to field queries over the future of Aubameyang, who is apparently “pretty close” to signing a new deal that feels both a necessity and a potential millstone for a club that knows all about the pitfalls of lucrative long-term extensions for ageing star turns.
Gabriel Magalhaes is also reportedly on the cusp of joining (it must be a seriously big cusp), ending a transfer tale that has dragged on. At least Willian has definitely signed, though he hardly had far to travel to complete the paperwork on his free transfer after leaving Chelsea.
– Arsenal conceded a higher % of goals from set-pieces (45.8%) than any other team in the 2019/20 Premier League campaign. Deficiency.@Orbinho looks at what should be the key focus areas for the Gunners ahead of the season’s return.
— Stats Perform Fan Engagement (@OptaSuit) August 25, 2020
New recruits were undoubtedly needed despite the early success under Arteta that has raised expectation levels. If requiring any advice on dealing with the pressure of high hopes from a fanbase, he only need shout across to the opposite technical area during the game.
The last time these two rivals met in this fixture, way back in 2002, the roles were somewhat reversed. Arsenal were the champions then, boasting a settled, star-studded squad under Arsene Wenger that was fresh off completing a domestic double. Liverpool, meanwhile, hoped a plethora of fresh faces could help them continue to blossom with Gerard Houllier in charge.
Gilberto Silva scored the only goal on his debut, but the Gunners were unable to retain their league crown, fading badly down the stretch to end up finishing behind Manchester United.
As for Liverpool, El Hadji Diouf did not quite pan out as hoped, to put it kindly. Neither did Salif Diao, nor Bruno Cheyrou, meaning the Reds fell away as part of the chasing pack.
While Klopp’s reigning champions aim to have the stamina to go the distance and prevail again, Arteta should be more than content if this version of Arsenal are able to contend for a top-four place. While these two have the benefit of a head start, the rest of the field will soon be under starters orders.
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