Arsenal end pre-season with silverware


There’s a certain stillness to a high summer morning. This stillness reminds me of when I used to try to get my swing to go as high as possible. I would fantasize about doing a full loop but in reality you can only get perpendicular and for just a brief moment, there at the very limit of the swing’s rotation, stretched out, the lines go slack and you just hang there before you are snapped violently backward into a fall.

Fall is coming, I know, because there is less than a month before my daughter starts school again. These are the last few weeks of summer. These are those moments when we are weightless.

I can also tell that summer is over because the Premier League season starts next week. This week, where Arsenal played Chelsea for the Charity Shield, is our moment of pause. After this we are going to be catapulted into bi-weekly matches, sniping comments in the press by other managers, injuries, Twitter fights, gutter press, Arsenal Fan TV, endless podcasts, endless YouTubes, fails, successes, great goals, horrible defending, great defending, turnovers, bad dribbles, great dribbles, the referees, pundits drawing on televisions, and of course, a whole batch of second-guessing as to why this or this did or didn’t happen. But for now, there’s one moment to savor: Arsenal beat Chelsea to win the Charity Shield.

It’s not a real trophy because a real trophy is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work. The reason the Premier League trophy is so valuable is that it’s the reward for being the best team over a 38 game season.

The Community Shield is not considered as valuable because it’s just one game, or so the logic goes. But I like to think of it as the last test of the pre-season. If pre-season is a mini-season, then the Charity Shield is the best trophy you can win for that mini-season. Maybe that’s a stretch. Maybe I just like beating Chelsea.

On the day, Arsenal crowned a new hero: Sead Kolasinac. He wasn’t set to start but came in when a Chelsea player elbowed Per Mertesacker in the face. Despite the rushed start, he had a flawless game which was capped off with a great goal, delivered by Granit Xhaka.

The goal itself was well worked by Arsenal. They stood a few players offside and right before delivery, those players went away from goal, back onside, while Kolasinac attacked the space left in Chelsea’s confusion. The Arsenal center back/left back/wing back/striker* then hung in the air, like that high summer swing, and nodded home the goal.

Arsenal had conceded a goal earlier, when Holding fell asleep – I’ve decided to accept that this happens and to just expect that Arsenal will concede goals, and so to decide the winner, the game went to penalties. Chelsea have always been a weird team but over the last few years they have gotten weirder. In the last two meetings between Arsenal and Chelsea, a Chelsea player has been sent off. In this match, that was Pedro, sent off for a studs-up challenge on Elneny’s achilles. It’s almost like Chelsea remember that they used to be thugs but have forgotten how to properly bully Arsenal and are now reduced to flying elbows and stupid tackles. Maybe that’s how it’s always been, or maybe they just used to get away with it and they aren’t anymore.

As the game went to pens, Arsenal didn’t even need to make a save. Chelsea boss, Antonio Conte, in a fit to show his owner that he needs more players – despite the fact that Chelsea have 6,000 players on loan – sent in the keeper to take the second pen. Courtoise blasted over the net. In fact, Chelsea scored just one pen, their first. They missed all the rest meaning that Cech still hasn’t saved a penalty for Arsenal.


*Obviously, I’m joking, he’s more of an inside mid forward. Also plays keeper.


  1. The first two paragraphs are worth of a New York Times best seller. Have you ever considered doing a 400 page novel? I’d be the first to buy. Unlike some other bloggers I used to read, you give more than just football facts, analysis and/or gossip. You give me an exercise in literature. And for that, I always look forward to the next post. Live long!

  2. Ugh I just commented on the previous article. So I’ll just post my thoughts on the game by being lazy and doing the ol’ copy/ paste:

    I thought Tim’s favorite player Elneny looked pretty good yesterday. I think that right now if we had to choose one of Elneny and Coquelin to keep in the team, I would go with Elneny. Especially if we are playing with 3 CBs, I don’t see what value Coquelin brings to the squad anymore. Wenger has previously used Coq for the high press but I thought Elneny did that pretty intelligently yesterday, picking his moments to press or dropping back to intercept. Maybe playing at CB has helped his game after all.

    Impressed with new additions as well. Lacazette had a couple of good link up plays in the first half and was unlucky not to have scored when his curled shot hit the post. I think he is going to be a better version of Theo up front. I don’t see him being involved as much as Giroud or Welbeck but when he does, generally good things will happen. Wenger called him efficient, and that just might be him in a nutshell. He will need more time to get used to the way the team plays but I think he can still make a difference while he is adjusting. We need to realistic though and not expect him to light up the league this season.

    Kolasinac is built like a tractor. We needed a player like him on our team. I can’t wait to see players just bouncing off him.

    With so many starters out yesterday, we showed we have good depth in the squad. Perhaps a bit too deep. There doesn’t seem to be too big of a gap between our starting XI and the supporting cast. I still want a technical player in mid-field. Someone with experience would be even better. We seem to match up well against this Chelsea side because they don’t press our back line as much. I would have preferred it if one of the two pre-season Chelsea games were against a team like Liverpool and see if we have improved in that department.

    1. Elneny is clearly being groomed as the Ramsey alternate. In a pinch, he can play Xhaka’s role as well. Coq is not the most complete of midfielders, but he’s the only player of his type on our midfield roster — a pure defensive midfielder. It would be madness to get rid of him, and task Elneny with doing his job. I had said that once Wenger tried Elneny in central defence, there’s no way we are being reinforcements in central midfield. I think that’s a mistake. Time will tell.

      Xhaka had a good game yesterday. I saw in a number of reports that he was blamed for the clearance that led to the Chelsea goal, but in that situation in a congested box, all he would do is break his own leg if he takes a full swing of the boot. He had 1.2 seconds to get something on it.

      Share Tim’s sentiment on Kolasinac. We need more tough players in our squad.

      Iwobi has looked marvellous in the pre-season, and even this early, he and Lacazette already make good music together. He lost his place with the move to a back three towards the end of last season, but on form will surely start against Leicester.

      1. Question is do we really need a purely defensive MF player if we have 3 CBs? I don’t think we do. I think what we need is a CM who doesn’t shirk his defensive duties, an all-rounder rather than a tackling specialist. I don’t see how we get the balance right with Coq and 3 CBs. I expect we will see very little of him this season other than the odd cameo to close out games. Maybe if Santi comes back and we switch to a 4-3-3 again, his stock rises. Hard to see that happening right now.

        Yeah Iwobi looks like he is developing well. He should get a start vs. Leicester if Ozil still can’t go but when Ozil is healthy, I am not sure how many starts he will get. We may see him more in Europe.

      2. Question is do we actually need a defensive midfielder with 3 CBs? I think what we need is a CM who doesn’t shirk his defensive duties. I don’t see how we get the balance right with 3 CBs and Coq, who is essentially another CB playing a bit further up. I expect to see very little of Coq this season (fitness permitting) other than the occasional cameo to close out games. The 3-4-3 is here to stay and only if Cazorla regains fitness and we switch back to a 4-3-3 will I expect the Coq to rise again.

        Yeah Iwobi looks like he is developing well. He might get a start vs. Leicester if Ozil still can’t go but when Ozil is healthy, I am not sure how many starts he will get. We may see him more in Europe.

        1. Don’t forget that Coq has seemingly added through balls to his game. He had one for an assist at the end of last season, (or maybe a pre-assist,) and then in the game where he got hurt this pre-season. I’d be surprised if Wenger doesn’t play him, if he’s healthy. (But not as first-choice.)

        2. I thought El-Neny was stunningly average, definitely a weak link. There is not one single trait he has which seems above average to me. Maybe fitness and his motor. That’s what helped him create the situation where Pedro lunged in on him. Otherwise, he didn’t do much. He chased the ball around, often by himself, without really getting close to it. His defensive positioning has gone form awful last year to adequate on this evidence. Offensively, he didn’t muster an influential pass that I can remember, always played it safe and short. Chelsea seemed to let him have the ball on purpose. He shanked one cross so much it almost went in the goal and badly mis-kicked his other chance. He’s a workable alternate in the squad, not much more in my estimation.

          1. Have to disagree with the good doctor on this one. The cross that was “shanked” I thought was a good blast in to the near post, the kind of cross that Giroud often gambles and scores on. The shot was mistimed but the idea was good. Better than Welbeck’s effort into row z. He looks to have added more forward passes and positivity to his game, we know he covers ground well and looks after the ball very well, he just needs to use it with a bit more ambition. I thought he was a positive and hope it’s a sign of things to come.

          2. I remember at least three things that he did that I was impressed with

            -Outmuscling the ball back from a Chelsea forward
            -Laying off the ball to Iwobi in the box
            -His shot on goal that looked like it was cross. I think he meant it, based on how he kicks the ball with the side of his foot.

            I think he had a really good game

  3. I’m excited for the new season to start, but not because I think this season will be any different from the previous one! No, I think it will follow the pattern of pretty much every Wenger season the last 10+ years: start pretty well, go on a nice long winning streak through November after a shocking defeat some time in the first few weeks of the season, tank in February/March/April leaving no hope of a title challenge, followed by a plucky campaign for a top four finish. You know I’m right!

    My favorite paper (Guardian) predicts 6th for Arsenal this season. I’m more optimistic. I think we’ll regain our fourth-place trophy in 2017-18. Bring it! (Honestly, getting back into the CL would be a successful season for us, given how crappy we were last season, and how much better other teams (like Spurs and Liverpool) are nowadays.)

    So….the reason I’m excited? No idea. I just like fresh starts, even if the end is inevitable. Also, Europa League. A new thing. Interesting.

    Tim, a few weeks ago you predicted our transfer business would be done after the signing of Lacazette. I had serious doubts about that claim then, especially with rumors swirling at that time about Seri and Lemar. However, with his recent comments about the need to trim the squad, and his history of using numbers as an excuse not to buy, I’m starting to think you’re right. I can almost hear him saying, “and don’t forget, we have Coquelin, Cazorla, and Gabriel coming back from injury!” (I predict Cazorla to make a few cameos at the end of the season, and that’s it, so we will go another summer without addressing the DM issue and the Cazorla issue.)

      1. Hilarious!
        Btw, I think it might’ve been Trump who directed the hackers. “Russia, if you are listening ….?”

        Any minute now ill be getting an angry post from Shard defending his favorite world leader and his
        “fully functioning democratic Parliament “

        1. Clearly American ‘Intelligence’ should decide who is or isn’t democratic. I mean, they have so much faith in their own democracy right now and such a wonderful history of supporting democracy all over the world.

          Yeah I took the bait, but only because I’d like you to think a little more about the world from another viewpoint.

          1. Trust me, I have no illusions about how flawed the American democracy is, or American foreign policy had been in the past or in some instances is still now for tha matter.

            Anyone who claims the US is the greatest democracy in the world must’ve not heard of countries like Norway, Denmark or New Zeland.

            But to claim Russia is a fully democratic nation ( which you did) is simply put silly.

            Also, I do think of the world from different points of view which is the only way to behave if you have travelled to as many different parts of the world as I have.

    1. Yeah I am bit more excited about the season after the Community Shield win. Still feel the occasional dread when I think about going into the season with Xhaka-Ramsey as with our best midfield pairing (it’s really just Ramsey’s injury record more than anything) but I think we can finish fourth. Chelsea is weaker without Costa and they have to play in Europe. They, along with Liverpool and Tottenham, don’t have the biggest squads. I think we can finish above Tottenham and Chelsea because even if you say they have a better first XI, I think having depth in your squad is important when you are playing in the Champions League. Liverpool is a bit of a X-factor for me. They are a bit unpredictable, simultaneously capable of being brilliant and dire.

      I don’t think Wenger has said anything new by saying he needs to trim the squad. He said it at the beginning of the summer and has been consistently saying it since then. What does make me nervous are his comments from a couple of weeks ago when he talked about improving the team by doing more work on the practice field and not just by buying players. Still, I get the feeling we will buy someone. Call It foolish optimism.

      1. Transfer-wise I think we are firmly in opportunism territory. Wenger is at the point where he’s happy to go ahead with his current squad, but he will be open to any late business for players that add quality. So something might happen but I don’t think we’re pushing any more. A lot is riding on Elneny and it was good to see him have a good match.

  4. Enjoyed the game but ugh, I don’t like collars on football shirts. Especially buttoned up to the gullet like that, they all look like a bunch of dweebs. The season is a sartorial write-off!

    Beyond that, some nice moves. Our forward line look purposeful – nobody’s talking about Theo but he looks to be in a very direct mood which is promising. With Laca creating space all over I think he could be banging them in this season.

  5. Yes, it’s always the hope that kills you but it’s what sustains as well and gives meaning to the word “supporter” in this context.

    Maybe just maybe.

    This could be our year.

    You never know.

    And these are some of the more obvious ones.

    I love this time of year just before the season begins anew. High summer and we are at our most weightless as Tim says so well.

    Come ON you Gunners!!!

    1. we did. chelsea tried really hard to press the boys but they were patient and found the loophole that always accompanies a team that presses.

    2. I’m cautiously optimistic about that. I think Conte wanted Chelsea to want to press but they weren’t convinced they felt like doing it. Still, it was better than usual from us on that score. The forwards alternated dropping deep to provide outlet passes and Xhaka is a weapon when he can pick his head up in deep positions.

    1. I like anything that helps us get a result over Chelsea.

      So if I wasn’t sure about it before, I sure am a fan now.

  6. KCAB SI MIT!!! I appreciate the effort and commitment to keep things ticking over during the season and more so the added difficulty of writing about football – almost daily – when there is no football. Kudos. I almost enjoyed this more than the match. I also wish today’s By The Numbers was written for 7am instead. I expect it would have generated a record number of comments here.

    As for the match, I enjoyed the fact that we won ‘a trophy’ and that we beat Chelsea and the fact it was the second time consecutively we beat them to a trophy. I am almost hopeful. But then just like the moments I realized that the swing has peaked (once again) and will not go any further, I remember that we are consistently inconsistent. I remember that instead of trying to build on these performances by strengthening, Wenger instead interpretes it as the team is perfectly placed to win the league and thus sees no need to strengthen. Welcome to Groundhog day.

  7. “CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT” nice one mate.. while I understand the lukewarm optimism and doubts over the new season, I feel a little bit more optimistic than I should, being a gunner.. I have 5 players in mind who I think will have a great season ..1) Danny 2) the ox 3) Alexis(giving us one last one for the road ) 4)Xhaka.. I watched xhaka closely, and he looked more decent than he was last season .. lastly, this season will be one hell of a season for arsenal … I think the current squad we have can mount a serious title challenge (even if most would disagree) With the right motivation and attitude.. i beleive that’s why Jens was added.. I urge all gunners around the world to get behind this team throughout the season..A properly inspired team is as good as a star-studded team.. COYG!!!

  8. This was an encouraging performance despite the depleted squad. The notes of caution come in midfield which is still stocked with deeply flawed players and/or the chronically injured. Forward and defensive areas look as well stocked as I can remember and the 3-4-3 is working for the players. Assuming relatively good health, we should have the firepower to go the distance but everything is predicated on that midfield clicking and the top choice players being available. A run of games of Coq-Neny would kill the season in my opinion. The title is there to be won this year. I don’t foresee any of our competitors being so strong as to run away with it.

    1. For me it’s a run of games with Ramsey and Coq that puts the fear into me, but Coq-Neny is probably a close second. Basically, unless Cazorla returns way early or Wilshere somehow resurrects his Arsenal career (I think he’s more likely to be gone come deadly day), we all better pray like crazy that Xhaka can play every minute of every PL game!

    1. Exactly.
      Also, having the losers stand around ,for what seemed like an eternity ,while the winners were making their way up the Wembley grand stand to collect their winners medals surely must’ve had some negative effect on them at least short term.

      Additionally, I can’t resist the comparison to the German Super Cup a day earlier, where the Bayern players ran around the pitch hoisting the cup as if it were the CL trophy.

      Maybe the CS is a trophy after all.

  9. Great piece, Tim. I loved how it began. Beautiful. The drop back down to Earth is so close. Every summer, it really does feel like things could be different. It’s almost painful hoping for Wenger to not go into the season with a squad light in a few crucial areas. I feel like it’s happening again, but this could just be the cynicism that results from Arsenal Disappointment Day, September 1 this year. We really need another CM. Seri would be a dream. We could probably use another CB too, but I’m not going to set myself up for the fall.

  10. Some reports suggesting Coutinho is going to Barcelona for around 90m. If that is true, I think we might see Liverpool bidding for the Ox.

  11. Despite looking great yesterday, I feel the squad is not good enough to challenge for the league. In attack they look great, (especially if they keep Alexis), but the defending is suspect. Cech is a bit dodgy as well. Arsenal were 18 points behind Chelsea last season. Bringing in just two players, and with the same Coach, that’s not going to make up the difference over the season.

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