Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Some early Community Shield thoughts + Ramsey on next season’s challenge

Welcome to another Friday. Where the hell did that week go?!

I suppose we’ll have to start focusing on Sunday soon enough, and the Community Shield against Chelsea. I’m kind of torn about this game because I don’t really give a shit about the Community Shield itself – let’s face it, we’ve won the two most important pre-season trophies already, as well as all being welcomed into the Kingdom of The Jeff – but there is probably something to be gained from an Arsenal win.

We know the record against Chelsea has been poor over the last few years, which is in stark contrast to that period when they couldn’t beat us for love nor money. They could score after 30 seconds but we’d still come back and do them over, with goals like this. Oh, how I love the pass and the finish, but I especially loved that metallic sound as the ball hits the back of the net (sadly not present in the only YouTube of the goal I could find. Anyone got the one I’m talking about?).

So, you could say that beating them on Sunday would go some way to breaking down that psychological barrier that exists. In fairness, for a few years it was more to do with a quality barrier than anything in our minds, but I think at this point we’ve got the players to make it a much more even contest. Whether the 3-0 win over Man City in last season’s Community Shield had any bearing on the games we played against them is difficult to say with any real assurance, but we should have beaten them at home and we went to their place and came back with three points.

On the other hand you can be quite sure that even if we do win on Sunday there’ll be some who will say that nothing has changed, we have to see Arsenal do it in a competitive game, and you get no points for winning the Community Shield etc etc. Which, of course, is a perfectly valid point of view because if you offered me defeat on Sunday for a couple of wins in the league I’d bite your hand off (not that it works that way, but you know what I mean).

So, in conclusion it sort of matters, because it’ll be a good gauge of where we are and how the squad is prepared for a new season, but it also doesn’t matter at all because all it will be, if we win, is a decent result in a friendly that has no tangible benefit on what happens between August 8th and May 15th (or May 21st and perhaps even May 28th but that’s not terribly likely).

Essentially, what I’m saying is that winning is no assurance that we’ve finally mastered our Portuguese-led, blue clad demons, and losing won’t be yet another ‘hammer blow’ or sign that we’re weak as kittens. Which is why I really struggle to give too much of a shit about it one way or the other.

Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey has hit the nail right on the head about what we need to do next season. Speaking to FourFourTwo he says that we need to combine the first part of 2013/14 with the second part of 2014/15:

The form we showed towards the end of last season is the form we need to show throughout the new season if we want to be challenging for the title. In the last few years we’ve always had half a season where we’ve been the most consistent team – it would be great if we could do that back-to-back in one season.

That really is the challenge. We’re certainly an ‘on our day’ team where if everything goes right we’re probably capable of beating anyone, but over the course of 38 games you have to have those days more often than not. When you look back at the start of last season and the points we dropped, most of them were in games we drew rather than lost.

Five draws in our first ten games meant 10 points went by the wayside, and when you look at the opposition – Everton, Leicester, Man City & Hull (all teams we beat in the second half of the season), and also Sp*rs – you can see how the gap could easily have been bridged with a little more ruthlessness in attack and stability in defence.

It’s why the manager talks about adding that extra 10-15 goals this season, looking at players like Ozil, Walcott, Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain to do it, and with a much more settled back four going into the new season (along with an upgrade at keeper), it’s not too difficult to see how we can get ourselves off to a much better start. It’s why I feel relatively confident going into this season. I still feel like there’s room for improvement, but in general terms I think we’re in the best shape we’ve been in at the start of a new season for ages.

Finally for today, news of a couple of loan moves for some fringe players. After a very successful spell at Brentford last year, Jon Toral is off to Birmingham City for the duration of 2015/16, while it looks like Isaac Hayden will get a year of first team football as a loan move to Hull City is being reported this morning. Good luck to them both.

And for some further Community Shield thoughts, check out Tim Stillman’s column from yesterday.

Right, have yourselves a good Friday. Till tomorrow.

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