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.

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