Friendly You Say? No, Anything But

A guest post from @foreverheady

All Community Shields matter, but some matter more than others.

You’d certainly wish you were playing, rather than just watching, given you only get the traditional curtain-raiser invite if you’ve won either cup or league the season before.  Other countries glamorise such ties with titles like Supercup, but the UK settled first with Charity, and then Community (reflecting a more politically correct age) to highlight the fact that for once the riches on display might help those who are a long way away from any such wealth.

Some of these games are little more than a stroll in the Wembley park, a last opportunity to put the finishing touches to the long pre-season process, especially when the previous year’s Cup has thrown up an unlikely winner, such as Wigan or Portsmouth. I suspect yesterday’s affair would have been one such game had Aston Villa done what many predicted and beaten The Arsenal in May. But of course they didn’t, and what we were left with was a Premier League marketing dream.

A London derby.

Chelsea v Arsenal. Jose v Wenger.

You see, every so often the Charity Shield throws up a game that really does matter, and which has significance far beyond the actual result.

Liverpool and Leeds in ’74 is the first I remember, the animosity between the teams palpable, but in later years Liverpool and Manchester United, Manchester United and Arsenal, Chelsea and City. Heavyweight contenders, Bull elephants circling each other, marking territory, establishing dominance.  At times all that seems missing is the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough, so primal are the encounters.

Last year’s Shield proves the point in reverse somehow; with several of the players still in post-World Cup drowsiness, and City clearly not rating their opponents, Arsenal secured a bloodless win that surprised one and all and which seemed at the time almost an irrelevance, such was the sense that the real title contenders were keeping their powder dry. And so it proved: although City and Arsenal eventually proved comfortably better than all the rest, the Premier League title was Chelsea’s well before Christmas.

It wasn’t like that yesterday, not like that at all. In the second half of last season’s League campaign, Wenger’s Arsenal emerged as a side to be reckoned with, a side that many felt could prove to be genuine contenders once more.  Although they never got close enough to land a proper blow, the celebrations of the Chelsea team on securing a goalless point at The Emirates in April suggested that they too had begun to see Arsenal as credible and feared opponents.

But something else was happening too I think, namely the increasing intensity of the animosity between Wenger and Mourinho.

The English game has lacked a proper feud for a while. Clough and Revie ages ago; then Clough and just about anyone; Ferguson and Keegan; Ferguson and Wenger for a while, but then, not much – to be honest the last few years have been positively beige. Van Gaal can’t be taken seriously, Pellegrino seems hardly bothered, and Arsene has not really had the team for anyone to reckon it be worth spending too much time on mind games. But it has been clear for a while that there is something about Wenger that really rankles Jose, and the feeling, it would appear, is delightfully mutual. Taunts in Press Conferences, measured and barbed responses, touchline scuffles, cold shoulders and faint praise. It has all been escalating very nicely, and if anyone thinks that as the managers led their teams out yesterday they were treating it as a friendly then I would respectively suggest that not only do they not really understand football but they haven’t a clue about human nature either.

Certainly the full-studded stamps of Ramariez on Cazorla, Ivanovic’s scything’s of Ozil and the heaviness of Coquelin’s challenges in the first several minutes suggested that pre-season was well and truly over, as did the intensity of Arsenal’s forward surge immediately after kick-off. This was a contest, and although essentially even, with both sides enjoying plenty of the ball, The Arsenal always seemed just that little bit lighter on their feet, more direct in their approach.

Close matches between top teams are decided by the smallest of details, and by moments of individual brilliance. A couple of years ago I wrote this about Mesut Ozil:  “great players make it seem like 11 against 10, for their vision reduces defences as surely as if a red card has been issued. Özil is a space maker and a game changer.” And he proved my words just right yesterday. Look again at the Arsenal goal. Ozil has the ball on the left hand flank, seemingly intent on attacking down that wing: in a moment he switches play to Theo in the middle, his pass cutting five defenders out of the game. Suddenly there is space, which Walcott maximises by immediately releasing Oxlade into the box, who then cuts inside and fires unstoppably with his weaker foot into the top corner.

It was the goal of a great striker, initially enabled by a master craftsman.

And in the end it proved the difference.

First Ramirez and then Hazard might have equalised, but only last ditch defending and great goalkeeping prevented Arsenal from stretching their lead too.

Both clubs will take things from the game.

Chelsea will point to the missing Costa, to a slight unpreparedness, to the ring-rustiness of Falcao and conclude that on another day things might well have gone differently. They have time between now and September to enter the market and acquire the players that will allow them to confidently defend their title, and I am sure they will. They probably need a centre-half, a defensive midfielder and a new striker as yesterday their spine looked vulnerable.

Arsenal will remember that they have Alexis and Wilshere to add to the mix, and will no doubt also look to strengthen and perhaps improve key positions.

I suspect that both managers will be looking at the same players and that after yesterday both clubs will be keen to back their manager’s choices. But most of all, both clubs will know that their next encounter will count for more than just another trophy of debatable worth, and that they will be playing for Premiership points and real bragging rights.

Saturday, 19th September will see the hottest tickets in town; the battle lines have been drawn and there won’t be any charity on offer, not even a handshake.

46 comments on “Friendly You Say? No, Anything But

  1. Sultan ‏@LeCarreMagie 3h3 hours ago
    Yesterday’s Community Shield win meant Arsene Wenger has now overseen 1/3 of all trophies Arsenal have ever won. #SpecialistInFailure


  2. Forever, good show!

    Mr Wenger, was damned, if he did not – snub OR

    damned if he did – gloat!

    Vulgar strawmen, provide victuals for the rattus rattus, that may follow The Arsenal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Superbly done Tim. Sign him up on a permanent contract George. None of this ‘Guest post’ nonsense – we don’t want to lose him to a bigger blog!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It was a Must win game for me… and I’m sure it was for Arsene. Broken the fecking maureen curse.

    Message for Fins:
    Do you remember my article on GunnersoreArse about the scrap yard that became the Emirates. I had a question about a pub at the bottom of Queensland Road, Albany place I couldnt remember the name, Well, I’ve just had contact with the son of one of the brothers (Dennis) and he reminded me it was called ‘The Favorite’.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There are certainly players that would strengthen our squad but very few of the “top, top” ones are available. And such is the standard of the current crop, I doubt that we will be able to make any further additions this time around. Not that I’m bothered. Most of the names being spun by the press don’t interest me anyway.
    Anyone Arsene finds before end of August will be fine by me. If he doesn’t, that’s fine too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. NB1969 Unless it was an American pub (or a dyslexic signwriter), I suspect it was called, “The Favourite”.


  7. dkgOOner

    You should be called Pedantic George 🙂 sorry, banned smiley

    Just remember this dkg:
    In order to have faith in your own path, you don’t need to prove that someone else’s path is wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. as Barry Glendenning put it in the Guardian – Wenger veered away from a handshake that was not being offered, he also implied that jose only shook hands with the Arsenal players for effect and to bring himself out as the good guy. Finally some journos are seeing him for what he is.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Aptly written, Forever. Just caught the full match on ‘the player’ for the first time this afternoon and the write-up pretty much captures the events rather succinctly.
    I concur with Steww on this…George, sign him up!


  10. Good work ForeverH, enjoyable read and great summary.

    For me, the outcome of this season ahead, assuming no further signings of a seismic nature anywhere in the EPL, rests on one thing alone and that is our ability to remain injury-free. Our form throughout 2015 flags up the superiority of our squad and I see little of concern going down elsewhere.

    Chelsea looked light going forward on Sunday and are a hamstring and a goalkeeping injury away from a substantial weakening of their squad. Loanee Falcao’s evident lack of pace, at this stage, must be a concern in West London.

    Manure seem to be in meltdown although the press haven’t troubled themselves to pick up on this. To lose Di Maria was careless, but De Gea, Valdes and Falcao looks more than a little unfortunate for a side still in urgent need of a rebuild.

    City look lethargic and have the body language of a club simply waiting for the next manager to be appointed.

    Liverpool have flooded the training ground with players in urgent need of bedding in.

    As someone remarked on Twitter earlier, even Spurs’ fans aren’t bothering to proclaim this season as the one whereby they finally overhaul their neighbours over the Middlesex borders in red London.

    Meanwhile Arsenal have significantly strengthened their defence, repaired all but one of the previously walking wounded and re-signed two of their most important players, in Theo and Santi. Plus had the best pre-season in the league whilst emerging convincing winners in the season’s first cup final.

    We will prove to be a very hard team to stop this year.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m told that Arsenal are interested in Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse


  12. Heady is the real deal. Steww knows. Hope Andrew Nicoll is truly concerned about his position in the 1st XI. Slacking off on vacation can be very costly with so many wise, matured heads at PA waiting to strut their stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Also Shotts, George needs to keep the first team squad happy and competition for places is a healthy incentive. Will we start to doubt his ambition if he passes up a quality writer like foreverheady? Imagine writing alongside such talent this season? We could really kick on to the next level.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It’s a concern that Andrew has missed a key part of pre-season and I’d worry about him breaking down later on. I don’t think anyone can question his commitment to the team but if George catches him smoking in the PA changing rooms again …

    Liked by 5 people

  15. Hello Northbank,
    Hope you enjoyed the match on Sunday!

    Have a picture from the parade in May taken from a friend’s flat (primary school teacher not a merchant banker, this being looney left islington there is still some vaguely progressive housing policy about the place…) about fifty or meters above where the pub might have been. I wanted to use it in a post if I can find the time (& the picture!).


  16. It really was an incredible goal.

    The movement from Ramsey and Walcott following Walcott’s attack past Ivanovic down the arsenal left, left the Gazprom CB’s floundering at sixes and sevens, and allowed Walcott an ocean of space. Özil looked up, considered his options, made a dummy or two and then finally calculated that he could curl in the pass to Walcott.
    The pass from Walcott was possibly fractionally overlooked but in the end that only helped fool the Gazprom right footed LB into overcommiting as he made the fractional misjudgment in assuming the Ox was going to follow the ball. However England’s best footballer since Gascoigne in my opinion (he had a French name!) had the ability to do something special. It was an incredible finish. Arshavin-esque.
    Can’t forget Bellerin’s first half lung bursting performance. Incredible. He’ll need a rest every now again if he’s going to play like that, not forgetting his age. As at LB there’ll be plenty of games for the FB’s.


  17. Thanks for the kind words. The problem is I’ve been posting on here for sometime now so although a renewal of my contract would be very nice its hardly going to convince anyone of George’s ambition. We need a shiny new writer if we are going to mount a serious challenge. I hear a young French name being bandied about; apparently his own club is in difficulties as its go to tactic of claiming AW is stubborn, won’t spend and can’t move with the times can no longer cut it in today’s footballing world. Perhaps he could spearhead the attack as you can’t rely on Heady to knock out 30 articles a season.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Were was the current pin up DM for the D**Mers when Walcott found himself momentarily in so much space? Chasing Özil’s shadow as Özil himself add lazily drifted (at speed) out of the tennish area that Ramsey then Walcott moved into during that move. People crediting Walcott with an assist without reflecting on how the team exploited the uncertainty in the Gazprom back line following Walcott’s dribble past Ivanovic should go back and enjoy the full passage of play. I amazing football.

    A different type of goal to one that might have been scored with OG on the pitch. It is a well stocked Arsenal.


  19. Fins

    I was over the moon with the win. We played brilliantly and that little game of ping pong with the ball around Cesc made my fecking day.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Foreverheady – just sign da ting.


  21. Foreverheady as an old-pro is is experienced in these matters. No negotiations without an agent.


  22. Positively Arsenal are said to be in advanced negotiations with @Foreverheady .Its expected an announcement could be made before our next game.*a source close to the blog*

    Liked by 1 person

  23. In response to a number of unsettling rumours I would like to make it clear that I, nor my agent, have had any formal or informal conversations with PositivelyFenerbache and I intend to return to fight for my place as the new season opens.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Some great writing on here these past three days, so much so that I finally had to plead with Monsieur to sort his bleeding internet out.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. When I watched the Emirates Cup game against Wolfsburg I enjoyed Oxlade’s late cameo. He repeatedly ran with the ball from the half way line and looked really exciting. However, by the time he got to the business end he seemed too tired to apply the finishing touch. Slight lack of match fitness no doubt, but I also found myself thinking how much more effective he might be if he could start those dynamic runs 25 yards or so nearer the goal, and whether there was any chance he might become the kind of predatory forward that everyone is so anxious to find. His goal on Sunday suggested that that could become a possibility. It also made me think that despite all the clamour it is not a new striker that Arsenal need to sign, and I would be very surprised if we do, especially with Giroud looking increasingly lean and my personal tip for the top, Welbeck, making his way back to full fitness. I think if we sign anyone it will be a very special deeper midfielder to share the burden with Ramsey and Coquelin.


  26. its reported that Webeck was back in full training today.


  27. Good stuff. Minor quibble to start with : think the change from Charity to Community may have been an enforced one. Spot of bother with Charity Commission about lack of clarity over who got what and delayed payments.

    As for the game, it was a live one and I loved it.

    Tell me I’m far from alone in only being able to properly sort out my watching experience- how much enjoyment I got, but also a decent analysis of the game- until the final whistle goes!

    The tension, the anxiety and the desire for us to win are way too high for me in those games for any kind of comfortable pleasure or for the frame of mind you probably need in order to assess things well. I can appreciate a good move, or the wild joy of a goal, but within seconds it’s replaced by fear and tension if those bastards are in our half. Adding it all together has to wait till the end.

    I think that’s a very different thing to calling the team shit, good or ok depending purely on the result, but it’s a fine line (and people aren’t exactly helped by the media to be anything other than ruled by emotions).

    Dare I say it, I reckon the game had the feel of those old contests with Utd. Our big games – City, Utd twice, Chelsea- in the second half of last season were all moving towards that, but this was the closest to it yet.

    Good, good signs. Aside from replicating a win like Sunday’s again, there seems only one more big step for the team to take : coping well in big games when you go a goal down.

    I’m confident that ,barring injury woe, this team will be capable of that and everything else needed to be in the thick of the title race this year.

    To avoid those injuries,though, we sure do need teams to be less dirty than Chelsea were in the first 25 minutes and for referees to not allow deliberate ankle stamps, and knees to the balls, to pass with nothing more than a free-kick.

    Simply, if that’s permitted this year against us, injuries will quickly come.

    Liked by 4 people

  28. on Arsenal.com Zelalem and Bielik have been removed from the first team squad list, they are back listed with the youths, Iwobi and Rene-Adelaide also listed with the Academy players.


  29. Arsenal have 8 players out on loan so far.

    Szczesny, Jenkinson, Hayden, Maitland-Niles, Toral, Crowley, Akpom, Sanogo


  30. NB69
    I’m not sure you deserve this – having opted for semi retirement following a nice series of articles, but, Runnin’ round Fab:



  31. Players photobombing? Did Roy Keane have a point?


    Nah, eff ‘im.


  32. Rantetta @ 1:47 pm – Noticed who was the hapless victim in that circle of one touch passing. Am sure Chelsea’s #4 used to administer similar embarrassment when he was the “big-man” at London Colney. What goes around comes around.


  33. Yeah, Shotta,
    but did he scream and dive every time someone breathed on him?


  34. Seems he picked up a lot of dirty tricks at Barfa, part of the DNA and all that.


  35. I think you’re correct. I’d thought he maybe got it all from Fulham’s finest.

    Speaking of FF, (well, an ex), is it my imagination, or that I simply never looked at ‘ski, that I don’t recall PC ever smiling? Petr seems really happy to be with Arsenal.

    “We beat them, we beat them. I told you”!:


  36. Brilliant piece Tim, thanks. A great read when just back from a stunningly beautiful beach!


  37. On Coquelin:

    09/10 = 3 Apps. @ AFC
    10/11 = 25 Apps. @ Lorient
    11/12 = 17 Apps. @ AFC
    12/13 = 22 Apps. @ AFC
    13/14 = 26 Apps. @ Freiburg
    14/15 = 4 Apps. @ Charlton // 14/15 = 30 Apps. @ AFC

    Most of those early Arsenal appearances were at FB, even one last year (Southampton LC game, played well), but there were a few in CM primarily with the second string. He impressed me so much on Home debut against Shrewesbury that I wondered along with Passenal upon who’d had the better home debut, Chamberlain or Coquelin (on pages elsewhere, where allegedly those who support their club in public never disagree upon such things. Strange behaviour considering the evidence before their eyes I know, but true).

    At a reasonable guesstimate Coquelin has had 40-45 starts in CM, in the position of D**M for the Arsenal first team, and not many more elsewhere: Freiburg was no fun for him as he was asked to play other roles, perhaps he played there regularly at Lorient?

    I can understand that people want to see more of him. In the biggest game of his career, the cup final, he put in a sublime Delph destroying performance. Almost a horror error on about thirteen minutes in, after which he made his apologies to teammates (& the bench!), found his focus and raised his game. Not a match that he’ll be forgetting!

    And AFC remain unbeaten in his current spell against Gazprom*. During the 0-0 he showed off with some incredible interceptions against the F Word. On Sunday he took it a little further, heh.

    He can only get better as a footballer.

    Of course those who have airbrushed his career before last season off the records can’t acknowledge that his last spell in the first team when he clocked up 22 appearances (only eight as in 8 less then last year! Of course less subs then before, but still…) came to a end when Ramires was allowed to hack him off the park (no foul! Who are we kidding?), which led to an illegal goal and a defeat. Such simple observations don’t’ fit certain narratives, but the above is the record.

    He had six appearances in the CL in that 12/13 season (the year of the Faltering Fullback?), so playing in the CL won’t be a new thing for him, but that’ll be another test for him. He’ll be glad that he’ll have the player who helped lay the foundations for this current squad, Areta as his player/coach and back up. Either one or the other should be fresh and niggle free for the starts during that three game a week period. Interesting times.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Fins
    Thanks for that.
    You know how much I love le Coq. We’ve discussed before. However, I didn’t know how many times he played, where, and in which seasons, so I’m grateful for the above info.

    Note how ref tries to take out le Coq. Obviously not content with Fellelbowy and others’ multiple attempts last season to remove Coq’s nose from his face, it appears our intrepid ref only had eyes for….:



  39. PG, are you really like Ivan? Slow to act on the last 2 years of the contract?

    Fins has struck the right chord. If Giggs and Scholes, could play well on into their 30’s, why not Arteta?

    Note or Chord, I will leave to Stew or North69. The latter appears to be a real whiz, at the music scene.

    As for the strawmen, who claim Arteta has lost his pace, how stupid can they be.

    Cesc, has always been one of the slowest players. With the ball, at his feet, Cesc is one of the rare breed, he is always thinks and looks, for the forward pass..

    Come on the PA for the new season!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. jose failed to turn up at the annual pre season get together of BPL managers at the FA, where they are briefed on any changes to the playing rules etc. No one from cfc turned up. They must be confident that they have enough refs bought that any change to the rules won’t apply to them. Well that and jose was afraid he’d have to shake hands.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Very good take on everything relating to the match played. Maureen stated the match was important in the BBC match preamble and had the press agreeing – but then he thought he would win it.

    Had we lost it would of been all about our inability to beat big teams, Maureen’s tactile nous and soft mentality of the players because of the lack of leadership.

    As it turned out The Arsenal not only matched Chelsea where it mattered, tactically Maureen didn’t seem able to make tactical changes or have the players that could change the game.

    The handshake silliness was brilliant because it meant that headlines Maureen wanted about him being a big sport etc, were not written. Instead his faux symbolic sportsmanship wasn’t entertained and he looked like a mug being jeered by thousands of fans in the stadium and millions worldwide.

    Basically the match was important for the two gif’s that came out of it. The first being the amazing goal scored by Alex OC and the second well…

    Liked by 2 people

  42. edu – maybe he was afraid he’d have to pay for lunch.


  43. George should buy Walter from Untold Arsenal – whatever the cost. He has assembled a good British spine but some European flair would make us compete with the big boys. We know George has the money, why won’t he spend it? Why?

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Arsene, bring me the head of Karim Benzema, as Wrighty (almost) put it.
    Oh no – today it’s Gonzo again!
    And Cheryshev.
    And Romagnoli.
    Whoever’s head you bring me, mine is spinning. Carried away by Sunday’s triumph and all this talk of winning the PL/CL/treble/quadruple. Can we win more than that?
    Sedative please, nurse.


  45. And while I see that Arsene now has massive support among the fickle-fans, it also says that 2/3rds want him to concentrate on trophies rather than flair. As if he didn’t do both, dummies.
    Anyway – I’m definitely with the 1/3rd.

    Liked by 1 person

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