or allf the usual old pre-game questions over whether the Community Shield actually matters as a match.
One of the real values of the game has always been the exciting sense of watching bright new signings in shiny new jerseys ahead of a hope-filled new season.
It is precisely that issue that has given Chelsea and Arsenal familiar old problems and added a new significance to this match.
The build-up has been almost entirely dominated by trouble over transfers.
Antonio Conte has been justifiably concerned that he doesn’t have enough new signings for Chelsea’s elegant new kit in a campaign.
He has so ostentatiously warned will be “the most difficult” of his managerial career.
Arsene Wenger has been concerned with making sure everybody knows that Alexis Sanchez will unquestionably be staying, even if the strong likelihood he starts on the bench will only further remind everyone of the problem, as well as how Arsenal would look without him with just Alexandre Lacazette signed in attack so far.
The bottom line is that, as the new campaign comes into view, this match will not offer a very clear picture of either club’s ideal side given so much uncertainty.
Both managers sounded very certain of themselves, at least, in discussing these subjects before the Community shield game.
Conte: “Now for us it’s very important to try to improve our squad, in the numerical aspect, we have a small squad… the situation is very clear.”
Wenger: “My decision is clear: he will stay and he will respect that. it is as simple as that.”
Part of the issue with attempting to assess the Community Shield’s very merits and lessons as a contest is that, no matter how hard the players consciously try, the subconscious knowledge that it’s merely an exhibition means that they can never have as much conviction as their managers did in those very pointed press conferences.
The match will nevertheless still offer some flavours of the new season, especially given that Conte himself will be want to get rid of the bad taste left from the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.
It is also that very May showpiece that offers a touch more curiosity to this contest, for reasons beyond simplistic revenge. One of the reasons Arsenal won that match – and went on a relatively impressive late-season rally – was because of Wenger’s belated decision to follow Conte in going to a back three. It helped them match Chelsea all over the pitch on the day, and particularly allowed the defence and Per Mertesacker to look so much more solid.
There was just a better balance that then brought out the best in so many of their players.
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