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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Arsenal vs. Chelsea: Tale of the Tape in Community Shield showdown

The Community Shield has taken on a greater importance lately. Jose Mourinho referred to Manchester United's collection of three trophies last season, with his team's 2-1 defeat of Leicester City in this fixture counted alongside the League Cup and Europa League.

Then again, in 2015, when his Chelsea team lost to Arsenal at Wembley, he refused to accept Arsene Wenger had yet beaten him in a competitive game. There will be no Mourinho this time, of course, but that encounter of two years ago is being restaged between the London rivals.

Whether it will come to count as a proper trophy to either Wenger or Antonio Conte probably depends on whether they win or lose, though there is also the small matter of this also being a rerun of May's FA Cup final in which Arsenal, against the odds, prevailed as deserved 2-1 winners.

Here's how the teams are looking ahead of Sunday's showdown.


Petr Cech will line up against his former club for the second time. His presence for Arsenal in the fixture two years ago did little to help Mourinho's simmering mood. The time since has seen him solve Wenger's longstanding goalkeeping problem. There is, though, the possibility David Ospina starts, having played in the FA Cup final, and pledged to fight Cech for the No. 1 spot.

Thibaut Courtois is undisputed No.1 at Chelsea, and was outstanding last season in an understated fashion behind an excellent defence. With Asmir Begovic leaving for Bournemouth, his new backup is Willy Caballero, formerly of Manchester City, and the hero of his former club's penalty shootout win over Liverpool in 2016's League Cup final.

Edge: Chelsea

Sunday's match is a repeat of May's FA Cup final, which Arsenal won 2-1.


Now John Terry is at Aston Villa, Gary Cahill is club captain, having been part of the three-man defence that powered Chelsea to glory last season. Is he assured of a place? Antonio Rudiger has arrived from Roma, and Chelsea have been linked with a move for Southampton's Virgil van Dijk, suggesting Conte is looking to refresh his backline. It seems likely, however, that Cahill will line up with Cesar Azpilicueta and David Luiz once again, with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso down the flanks as wing-backs, as they did during last month's friendly between the clubs as Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 win.

Wenger also enjoyed success with a three-man defence last season, though an injury doubt against Shkodran Mustafi could cause him to rethink that. An experiment with Mohamed Elneny as one his trio was not wholly successful in preseason. Sead Kolasinac, signed on a free transfer from Schalke, appears custom-made to fill the left wing-back position, which appears bad news for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but he may find himself on the opposite flank, having excelled there during preseason. Selecting him ahead of Hector Bellerin would be an instructive Wenger call.

Edge: Chelsea

Chelsea will hope to strike an early psychological blow ahead of defending their Premier League title.


In the FA Cup final, it was Arsenal's midfield energy that won the day against a surprisingly leggy Chelsea. Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey were heroic in the engine room but it remains to be seen whether this less important fixture can motivate them in the same way. Ramsey is also an injury doubt, while Francis Coquelin is missing with an ankle ligament injury which may send Wenger into the transfer market. Jack Wilshere's participation seems unlikely at best.

Nemanja Matic's defection to Manchester United leaves a vacancy for Chelsea, especially as Tiemoue Bakayoko is yet to recover fully from the knee injury that delayed his move from Monaco. Cesc Fabregas is set to start against his old club and that would place a heavy burden on N'Golo Kante, who was so disappointing in the FA Cup final after being a deserved double player of the year.

Edge: Even


The Arsenal agenda this summer has been filled with speculation over Alexis Sanchez, and the declaration from Wenger is that the Chilean is staying to see out his contract. Having recovered from the flu that delayed his return from South America, Sanchez will line up with Mesut Ozil, who seems likelier to stay. As part of an expected trio, Alexandre Lacazette, even more expensive than that pair at £46.5m from Lyon, gets his first taste of a big occasion. A goal at Wembley would go some way to quietening questions over his price, and that no other big clubs chose to move for a player of 26. 

Chelsea will look very different in this department. Diego Costa's not-so-tearful goodbye is not yet sealed but he will not play at Wembley, and Eden Hazard is recovering from the fractured ankle that will keep him out of the opening weeks. That leaves new signing Alvaro Morata under pressure to deliver from the start, though he may line up left of a trio with Michy Batshuayi as the central striker, the Belgian hugely impressive in preseason, including two goals against Arsenal in Beijing. One of Willian or Pedro will have to try and make up for the lack of Hazard.

Edge: Arsenal

Alexis Sanchez is expected to start but doubts remain over his long term future.


Wenger returns to the fray after so many expected -- and indeed wanted -- him to leave his post last season. That FA Cup triumph, his seventh, lent him impetus to carry on. With his club doused in speculation over the futures of Ozil and Sanchez, his two best players, this feels likely to be another campaign where Wenger is firefighting. Then again, would he have it any other way? Another Wembley victory over Chelsea can calm things for a bit, perhaps.

In last season's battle of the superstar coaches, Conte was the winner by knockout. Chelsea blasted to the Premier League title while the likes of Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Wenger floundered. Repeating such successes is more difficult. Chelsea's FA Cup final defeat suggested a vulnerability that others might exploit and Chelsea's transfer dealings have not brought the players Conte might like, with Alex Sandro yet to arrive after a lengthy pursuit of the Juventus full-back and Romelu Lukaku missed out on. However, a dominant display on Sunday could send out the signal that Chelsea remain the team to beat.

Edge: Even


This fixture's competitiveness can often depend on its participants' level of fitness and sharpness. Both clubs have been on extensive tours of Asia. Arsenal won their home Emirates Cup tournament last week to make it five friendly matches while Chelsea played just three, as well as a number of games behind closed doors.

And should the match go to penalties, which will follow the end of 90 minutes, then Wembley will stage a trial of the ABBA shootout system, where, after the first kick is taken, the second team take the next two to alternate the kicks and stop that first taker gaining an advantage. Confused? You will be.

Score prediction: 1-1 and Arsenal to be the winners that take it all in an ABBA shootout.

John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.


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