Arsenal launched their season in fine style by taking victory over Chelsea in the Community Shield on Sunday, stretching the Gunners superb run at Wembley to nine consecutive victories.
Though there was a whiff of good fortune about parts of it, Arsene Wenger’s men showed more than enough in 90 minutes, and especially in the five or 10 minutes after the match, to justify the victory – which will serve as a nice little boost ahead of the Premier League campaign.
There was even a penalty shoot-out success, which we are becoming rather good at these days, even if Petr Cech seems destined never to save another penalty in an Arsenal shirt.
As an added bonus, Antonio Conte and his Chelsea side looked distraught as they watch Arsenal ascend the stairs to collect the shield, which was surprising given the largely inconsequential nature of the match. Perhaps they are all in line for a ritual flogging at the hands of the Italian, who doesn’t strike me as a particularly good loser.
Either way, it would be a churlish fan who complains at taking the victory and the feel-good factor it will hopefully bring in the next few days as we prepare for the serious business of the season ahead.
Coming into the match, I can’t deny that I was a little worried about the makeshift feel of the Arsenal side, with a number of key players missing including Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielney, Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey, and Mesut Ozil.
There was also the lingering doubts about the side’s inconsistency during pre-season, with some promising performances overshadowed by some awful examples of defending which have, more often than not, cost us goals.
However, the players who came in did a good job keeping Chelsea at arm’s length, while showing enough in attack to raise hopes ahead of next Friday’s season opener against Leicester.
That’s not to say that everything was perfect, because there were a few moments of silliness that we could really do without, not least the twin errors that allowed Chelsea to take the lead in the first place.
With a bit of luck, the return of some of the senior players will allow us to iron out those follies but we remain a little vulnerable to our own stupidity at times.
But I take nothing away from the battling nature of the Arsenal performance. They were combative, they were committed, and they matched Chelsea for most of the game.
The red card awarded to Pedro obviously changed the dynamic of the game and saw Arsenal more or less take control from there on. For me, I would have expected to see a yellow card for the challenge, but the referee decided it was red. It’s a decision you wouldn’t be particularly happy with if it were one of your players, that’s as much as I can say about it.
Thibaut Cortouis was pretty sharp between the posts for Chelsea but there was nothing he could do about the equaliser. Sead Kolasinac, with his neck the size of Optimus Prime’s, connected with a Granit Xhaka free-kick to draw matters level and we were unfortunate not to wrap things up before the whistle below for full time.
As it happens, we had more penalty practice and, to Arsenal’s credit, they were spot on every time, giving the Belgian goalkeeper no chance on every occasion.
It was a thoroughly satisfactory days work for the Gunners who can be proud of the level of performance they showed against the incumbent champions. How they will measure up this season is really anyone’s guess but, on this showing, they seemed to be well-prepared.
This being Arsenal, I don’t rule out being brought crashing back to earth next week in spectacular style but, in the meantime, I am happy to enjoy the perfect end to an imperfect pre-season.