Can Ar­se­nal give Chelsea the blues again?

CityPress - - Sport - PETER AUF DER HEYDE sports@city­press.co.za

While the im­por­tance placed on to­day’s Com­mu­nity Shield fi­nal at Wem­b­ley be­tween Ar­se­nal and Chelsea is a far cry from that of the Pre­mier League and the FA Cup, it is a game nei­ther side will want to lose.

Chelsea were de­nied a rare dou­ble when Ar­se­nal beat them 2-1 in the FA Cup fi­nal at the end of last sea­son, while for Gun­ners’ boss Arsène Wenger, bring­ing some sil­ver­ware to the Emi­rates – al­beit “only” the Shield – will go a long way to­wards si­lenc­ing those who, for much of last sea­son, called for him to step down.

The Blues got the bet­ter of Ar­se­nal in a friendly played in China last month, but it seems un­likely that the 3-0 score­line is an in­di­ca­tion of what can be ex­pected when the two meet at Wem­b­ley.

Both Wenger and his Chelsea coun­ter­part An­to­nio Conte have some in­jury wor­ries ahead of the match, and both are ex­pected to use the fi­nal to give some of their new sign­ings a run-out.

Ar­se­nal striker Alexis Sánchez was given an ex­tended hol­i­day af­ter tak­ing part in the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup with Chile and his match fit­ness will be as­sessed ahead of the game.

French mid­fielder Fran­cis Co­quelin will miss the game with an an­kle in­jury, while Ger­many international Shko­dran Mustafi could also be side­lined.

The French coach, who is by far the long­est-serv­ing coach in the English top flight – hav­ing joined Ar­se­nal in 1996 – signed Sead Ko­lašinac and highly rated Alexan­dre La­cazette dur­ing sum­mer and both could start against Chelsea.

Conte, mean­while, will be with­out Pe­dro, who broke sev­eral fa­cial bones dur­ing the vic­tory against Ar­se­nal, while Eden Hazard has been ruled out as he re­cov­ers from a bro­ken an­kle. Also out for the Blues is Tié­moué Bakayoko.

The French international joined Chelsea last month and is one of four play­ers Conte brought to Stam­ford Bridge, with Willy Ca­ballero, An­to­nio Rudi­ger and Al­varo Mo­rata all in line to play their part at Wem­b­ley.

There was some good and bad news for both coaches, though, as the FA cleared Nige­rian international Vic­tor Moses and Lau­rent Ko­scielny to play in the match. Moses was sent off in the FA Cup fi­nal, while French international Ko­scielny suf­fered the same fate in a league game late in the sea­son.

The good news is that both can play in the fi­nal. The bad news, though, is that they will have to serve their sus­pen­sion in league matches. Chelsea lose three in a row

Chelsea go into the game af­ter a run of three de­feats in the Com­mu­nity Shield, with the last one in 2015 com­ing against Ar­se­nal, who won 1-0 through Alex OxladeCham­ber­lain’s first-half goal. Ar­se­nal, mean­while, have won in their last two ap­pear­ances in the fi­nal. They also have the ad­van­tage in the head-to-head record, with 74 vic­to­ries com­pared with Chelsea’s 62.

That not­with­stand­ing, Chelsea goal­keeper Thibaut Cour­tois be­lieves his side can deny Ar­se­nal a hat-trick of Shield vic­to­ries.

“We will do our best to win the Com­mu­nity Shield and I think we are ready for it. I think we had some good train­ing, which was im­por­tant for us. The first game against Ar­se­nal [the 3-0 win] was good.” The Bel­gian keeper told journalists ahead of the game that to win they would need to tighten up their game. “We didn’t play badly in the last two games [against Ar­se­nal], but we gave away balls for coun­ter­at­tacks. Ob­vi­ously, that’s some­thing we have to im­prove on.”

For Wenger, Chelsea re­main a for­mi­da­ble force. “They look like they have kept the ba­sis of the squad. They have added Bakayoko, who is a very strong player. Sim­i­lar to [Ne­manja] Matić, but more of an im­pact player. “They have re­placed [Diego] Costa with Mo­rata, who is maybe less of a goalscorer than Costa, but he can cre­ate more. I ex­pect them to fight for the ti­tle.”

He has dis­missed spec­u­la­tion that coaches re­gard the Com­mu­nity Shield as a non­event. “For us, it is a good op­por­tu­nity to re­peat the per­for­mance from the [FA Cup] fi­nal and give com­pe­ti­tion to play­ers who need it.”

He took the op­por­tu­nity to crit­i­cise the €220 mil­lion trans­fer of Brazil­ian international Ney­mar from Barcelona to Paris Sain­tGer­main. “The whole land­scape of foot­ball has changed com­pletely. Once a coun­try con­trols a club, ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble. It be­comes im­pos­si­ble to re­spect Fi­nan­cial Fair Play. “Ar­se­nal still lives with ra­tio­nal­ity. Of course, we can­not com­pete at that level.”

What Ar­se­nal can do is em­u­late the suc­cess PSG had in the French equiv­a­lent of the Com­mu­nity Shield, where the club last week beat French champions Monaco in the fi­nal.

PHOTO: STUART MAC­FAR­LANE / AR­SE­NAL FC VIA GETTY IMAGES

RETRO From left: Me­sut Özil, Aaron Ram­sey and Olivier Giroud cel­e­brate Ar­se­nal’s Char­ity Shield win against Chelsea in 2015

PHOTO: THANANUWAT SRIRASANT / GETTY

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK An­to­nio Conte has been in charge of Chelsea for one sea­son

PHOTO: MICHAEL REGAN / THE FA VIA GETTY IMAGES

VET­ERAN Arsène Wenger has been around the block

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