The 2015/16 campaign is upon and we have an absolute humdinger to get us going. The traditional curtain raiser, more formally known as the Community Shield sees the reigning Premier League champions Chelsea take on the FA Cup holders Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday.
These two clubs have shared a bitter rivalry in recent seasons and have risen, undisputedly, to being the top two clubs from London. It may be too early on to make too many assumptions based on this one game, but whoever wins will go into their Premier League campaign full of confidence, and with a trophy already under their belt.
Arsene Wenger’s record against Jose Mourinho makes for pretty poor reading if you are an Arsenal fan. In 13 meetings in all competitions, the Frenchman has been unable to conjure up a win even once against his nemesis, with Chelsea winning 7 of those encounters. The Gunners have, in fact, been unable to score even a single goal against the Blues in their last 5 meeting.
The shift in power has been symbolic, as Mourinho’s arrival in England in 2004 saw Chelsea turn the tide on their North London rivals following close to a decade of dominance under Wenger. Since then though, the Blues have finished above Arsenal in all seasons but one, and achieve considerably more success.
The feel-good factor
But for Arsenal, going into the game on Sunday, there is a renewed sense of optimism. They were the best team in the league in the second half of last season, having found the right balance in the side. In Petr Cech, they have bought a leader, a proven winner and of course, an absolutely world-class goalkeeper. Even though some might say they are a striker short of being sure-shot title contenders, there is no doubt that the Arsenal fans truly believe in their team’s chances this time.
They are coming off the back of a solid pre-season, winning the Emirates Cup and putting in impressive displays against two very good sides – Lyon and Wolfsburg. With all their players fit and raring to go, they have strength and depth in every area of the pitch.
Chelsea, on the other hand, had a lukewarm pre-season tour of North America, succumbing to a shock 4-2 defeat against the New York Red Bulls before beating both Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona on penalties. Gary Cahill and Diego Costa picked up injuries in the latter of those games, but have been passed fit for the Community Shield, as reported here by Sky Sports. Also, with the lack of signings in the summer, there is a real doubt as to whether they really are better than they were last season.
Tide of change
Wenger needs to take full advantage of the supreme confidence currently in his squad and at the club as a whole, to break his hoodoo against Mourinho. There is no doubt that this is the Gunners’ best opportunity to break this jinx and go into the new season with a real sign of change. They have often been accused, and rightly so, of going missing against the big sides in the last few seasons, but a win against the Premier League champions, and more importantly, against Mourinho, will act as a huge catalyst in their challenge for the title.