Who Cares About the Community Shield?

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Don’t let Jose Mourinho fool you, Chelsea did not control yesterdays Charity Shield match against Manchester United, 12 shots by United and 5 by Chelsea is enough to defuse that claim. Of Chelsea’s 5 shots at goal only 1 was in the second half, and they cause United so little worry that you’d be hard pressed to even remember them, apart of course for Malouda’s brilliantly taken goal.

Does the Charity Shield, or Community Shield as it is now known, really matter though? The losers will tell you not at all. History will back that claim up, only 13 times in over 70 years has the winner gone on to claim the League that same season. The game is generally treated as a glorified preseason friendly, designed to give the players a run out in front of a packed Wembley, or Cardiff in the case of the last half a dozen matches before the return to Wembley yesterday, a fashion show to parade the new kit for the season, and as an introduction to some of the new signings. The match seldom matters. Last years affair saw Liverpool beat Chelsea yet Liverpool once again did not manage to join the title fight. So the Community Shield does not matter right? Wrong, while the result may be the least important factor, anything gained or lost is this match will count for something. Any match involve United and Chelsea matters. If Rooney and Ronaldo were walking around London and saw Lampard and Cole kicking a ball about, a game of 2 on 2 in the street results, it would matter. That is the fact behind the huge amounts of money being spent by the two teams to try and get ahead of the other. Chelsea may not have spent us much as United, or even Sunderland and Birmingham, in transfer fees this preseason, but in wages, for new players and renewing contracts of existing players, they have spent heavily.

So what did the two teams gain from this encounter? Chelsea will have learned not to go into any match with no forward. I’m sure they will never repeat that particular selection, and there may have been reasons for it, but why was Pizzaro on the bench and not starting? They will argue that they played a 4-3-3 with Joe Cole, Malouda and Wright-Phillips up front. They didn’t. They played a 4-6-0. This may be why the Special One thinks that they controlled the game. They packed the mid field and were hard to break down, but at the same time they created very little. Against lesser teams the strangle hold may pay off, but it wont win them any silverware. I’m pretty sure that this was a once off and wont be repeated. But in saying this, had they played a forward, no doubt Drogba when he is fit, but any of Pizzaro, Sheva, Kalou on other occasions, will he be true to his 4-3-3 or will it be just that in name and more realistically a 4-5-1? With Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham expected to put up a braver fight this season, and the mid table teams spending a lot, think Newcastle, Manchester City, West Ham and Portsmouth, this season could be closer that previous years, and Chelsea may have to be more adventurous then they have previously been.

The performance of Malouda is a positive that Chelsea will have taken out of this match. It is more important that it may have otherwise been with the future of Robben still unclear. Should the Dutchman leave then Malouda will take on more responsibility, both in terms of scoring and creating goals. While players from better leagues, in Spain and Italy, tend to take time to acclimatise to the English game, those coming from France seem to find the transition much simpler, as Malouda is showing, just as Essien did before him. Rather then waiting for a new signing to settle before they make an impact, Chelsea are still waiting on Ballack and Sheva, Malouda should fit in from the off. This can only be good for Chelsea.

One other thing that Chelsea will have noted is that they can have all their attacking players available to them, Drogba, Kalou,Sheva, Robben, were all missing and should be back for the real start next week, but without John Terry they are very vulnerable at the back. Showing that he does deserve to be the best paid player at the club as he is the most important in the team. The news today that he may be out for the first month will cast a dark shadow over the Blues hopes of getting off to a good start this season. Chelsea effectively last the league during the period when Terry and Cech were out, and the chance of a repeat so early on is disheartening to any Chelsea fan. Carvalho and Ben Haim did well, and are both good players, but Terry is a great player, and a difference to being always stable at the back and usually stable at the back. A difference that could hurt Chelsea.

As for United, there were a few positives to take from this victory. The first being the most obvious – the win. They have only beaten Chelsea once in the last few years, so any win is welcome, but to get it early will set the confidence for a good start to the season. Like Chelsea, United put out out a weaker team than they will for most of this coming season. Hargreaves and Tevez were not available, Neville is still recovering, as are Saha, Solsjaer and Anderson. Nani made a nervous appearance in the second half, but not much can be read into his brief stint. United have just sold Alan Smith and Rossi, Saha and Solsjaer are injured, and Tevez has just arrived. That means that Rooney is the only recognizes forward available. With this in mind Sir Alex played Evra on the left of midfield and Giggs in a free role behind Rooney. All will have been encouraged by the performance of both Evra and Giggs. Giggs, United goal scorer, had three clear chances for United, one he coolly finished, one was superbly saved by Cech and the other blocked by Johnson. The focus here being that Giggs was getting into goal scoring positions, rather then just creating. His positional play, his running. his timing and his link play were all brilliant. He didn’t look out of place in the floating position, in the hole, and this will just serve to give United more options and versatility in play. Evra, usually playing at left back, was employed in Giggs usual position on the left of midfield. His energetic running up and down the flank will have pleased all on United side. Always an attacking option from full back, he gave the boss the added pleasure of knowing he can be asked to parade the left wing when needed. It was Evra’s run and pass that set up the Giggs goal.

Perhaps the biggest advantage United will take from this match came in the penalty shoot out. Edwin van der Saar has come under criticism for some lapses during the run in last season, and one in the opening game of United’s far east tour, and it was widely believed that Ben Foster would start this season as United’s number one, until Foster’s injury ruled him out until March. In the opening half of yesterdays match van der Saar came in for a few tongue lashings by Rio Ferdinand when he failed to come for balls played into the box. A less then confident start for the keeper, and the United defence that rely so much on his calming influence. However in the penalty shootout van der Saar managed to save all three Chelsea spot kicks, but it is the manner of the saves that will please him. They weren’t poorly taken, weak penalties, but all brilliant saved by the keeper, who showed strong hands and agility, and looked unbeatable. The confidence that he would have regained by those saves will be carried by him, and the United defence, into the new season.

So while the result of the Community Shield tends to not have an bearing on the coming season, yesterdays match may buck the trend, as both United and Chelsea will have gained significant insight into what they will need to end the season will silverware. For United the match was perhaps just what Edwin van der Saar needed to regain his form.

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