Tom Adams and Tom Bennett pick out four big talking points after watching Arsenal beat Chelsea on penalties in the season opening Community Shield at Wembley Stadium...
1) Kolasinac could be a cult hero for Arsenal
With the pumped-up physique, smooth skin and carefully sculpted haircut of a Love Island contestant who got booted out in the second week, Sead Kolasinac cuts an unusual figure in the Premier League. On the evidence of Sunday’s Community Shield, he also has an unusual array of talents which could well make him a fans’ favourite at Arsenal.
Kolasinac made an appearance as a substitute after Per Mertesacker suffered a nasty cut and as well as proving a robust figure in the back three, slamming into a few challenges, he also raided forward like a tank. It was Kolasinac who scored the equaliser too, as he headed home expertly.
In a summer of unprecedented transfer excess, Kolasinac is a reminder that there is still some value to be had in the market, if you look hard enough. Not that signing a member of the Bundesliga team of the season can be considered a triumph of scouting. Still, his free transfer signing from Schalke could prove to be one of the bargains of the summer if he continues in this vein.
2) Chelsea have not improved in the transfer window
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea were an unstoppable force last season, racking up one of the biggest points tallies in Premier League history on their way to the title. It was a remarkable achievement, but the Blues were helped enormously by a lack of European football testing the legs of their small first-team squad.
For Chelsea to stand a strong chance of competing on all fronts this season they needed to strengthen, but it’s debatable whether the club’s transfers have even left them as strong as last season, let alone stronger.
Nemanja Matic might be a limited footballer, but he’s adept at performing the holding role to a high level, so his departure to Manchester United will hurt Chelsea, no matter how good Tiemoue Bakayoko turns out to be when given the opportunity.
But it’s up top where there is serious doubt over Chelsea’s strength. Diego Costa might be a questionable character, but he’s a more than handy striker when he fancies it, and it was his burst of form in the first half of last season that pushed Chelsea into a dominant position in the league. On this evidence of Sunday’s Community Shield, neither Michy Batshuayi nor Alvaro Morata are ready to step up and replace him straight away. Both are talented players, with Morata particularly capable of reaching the very highest level if he can adapt to the English league’s physicality. But the £70million man looks every inch a player who’s going to take time to settle in the Premier League.
3) The Community Shield doesn’t count as a ‘proper’ trophy
Jose Mourinho would like you to think otherwise, but the Community Shield is not a serious piece of silverware.
While that’s hardly a revelatory statement, Sunday’s face-off between Arsenal and Chelsea was a timely reminder that the fixture is little more than a pre-season friendly.
Antonio Conte rocked up in a tracksuit to make sure everybody was aware of just how seriously he was taking the game, while Arsene Wenger left his best two players out of the squad completely to save them for the start of the season.
A one-off friendly game, played at little more than pre-season pace; the only thing that made this match more significant than your average run-of-the-mill summer tour game was the pre-existing rivalry between the two clubs.
4) Lacazette looked sharp – but can Iwobi and Welbeck be his support act?
All eyes were on Alexandre Lacazette at kick-off as the club-record £46.5 million new man was the only summer signing on display from either side. Much is expected of Lacazette at Arsenal and he is expected to be an upgrade on Olivier Giroud, even though his new team-mate starts ahead of him for France.
Arsenal fans have only seen little glimpses of the striker so far but he looked bright at Wembley, striking the post in the first half with a curling effort following a move which he instigated when coming deep and shifting the ball out wide in cultured fashion. It was an impressive moment.
The question of who supports Lacazette in the two wide and slightly withdrawn attacking positions in Arsenal’s front three is somewhat unclear, with doubts surrounding the futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, both of whom were absent against Chelsea.
In their stead, Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck both impressed. The younger man has performed brightly in pre-season after tailing off quite badly in 2016-17 and looked dangerous again against the Premier League winners, while Welbeck added something in attack as well. Arsene Wenger has some big decisions ahead of him.