Arsenal and Chelsea renew their rivalry
Goalkeeper Petr Čech will come up against his former employers for the first time when Arsenal and Chelsea do battle in the Community Shield this afternoon.
In what promises to be an enthralling preseason clash at Wembley Stadium, many view the contest between these two sides as the perfect opportunity to assess their title credentials ahead of the new Premier League campaign.
The acquisition of Čech from the Blues is seen as a transfer masterstroke by many pundits, a subject which has sparked a new-found confidence in the Gunners’ ability to mount a sustained title challenge.
Blues boss José Mourinho was seemingly powerless to stop Čech’s transfer to the Emirates Stadium, and he will undoubtedly be quizzed on the subject ahead of the showpiece. While the signing of Čech is currently Arsenal’s only summer addition, Chelsea have been slightly more active in the off-season transfer window.
Mourinho made the curious decision to bring Colombian striker Radamel Falcao back to the Premier League, despite an underwhelming loan stint at Manchester United last term, where he scored just four goals in 26 Premier League appearances.
Falcao could well feature today, with first-choice frontman Diego Costa nursing a persistent hamstring problem, although Mourinho may opt to hand a start to Loïc Rémy with a view to bringing the on-loan striker on as an impact substitute.
New signings aside, all the usual suspects will be involved for Arsenal, but Chelsea will be without the services of Didier Drogba, who left on a free transfer.
In the lead-up to today’s much-anticipated clash, Mourinho has raised the stakes by commenting on Arsenal’s transfer policy in recent seasons. This, after suggesting Chelsea’s rivals were trying to buy the title.
Mourinho told reporters: “If you add up the amounts clubs have spent in the past three or four years, I think maybe you will find a surprise. If you put Mesut Özil plus Alexis Sánchez, plus Calum Chambers, plus Mathieu Debuchy, you will find a surprise.”
Mourinho’s comments prompted a terse response from Arsène Wenger. “One day you will look at the players we have developed here compared to the spending of other clubs and you will be surprised,” the Frenchman told reporters.
“I get different reproaches – that I don’t spend enough, then I spend too much. I let other people talk.”
While the Community Shield is nothing more than a curtain-raiser to the new season, the fact that Wenger and Mourinho have a long-running and sometimes nasty rivalry is bound to add an extra layer of excitement and intrigue to the fixture.
Arsenal defeated Manchester City 3-0 in last year’s Community Shield, but it’s hard to imagine a repeat of the feat this time around. Mourinho is notorious for his defensive style of football and will certainly try to nullify the attacking threat of the Gunners.
Let’s hope he doesn’t decide to park the bus and turn today’s encounter into a lacklustre preseason friendly.
CONTEST Cesc Fàbregas of Chelsea and Alexis Sánchez of Arsenal battle for the ball last season