Arsenal 1 Liverpool 1 (5-4 pens): Rhian Brewster in shootout agony as Gunners win Community Shield
ARSENAL’S love affair with Mikel Arteta and Wembley really is red hot.
It may have taken penalties for Arteta’s Arsenal side to claim yet another big scalp at the national stadium.
But after outwitting Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Frank Lampard’s Chelsea to win the FA Cup, the Gunner outplayed runaway Premier League champions Liverpool.
It was appropriate that captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the spot-kick that sealed the second trophy of the Arteta regime.
His excellent goal in the first half – his fifth in three games in six weeks at this venue – was good enough to win any game.
But the whole Arsenal team deserved this victory for a disciplined, intelligent and ultimately nerveless performance.
Liverpool missed the quality and energy of injured pair Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson from their first-choice team.
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But against similarly under-strength opposition, they were second best all over the pitch for most of the match. The only positive was a first goal in English football for substitute Takumi Minamino.
To lose once to an Arsenal team in transition may be regarded as a misfortune. Twice, looks like carelessness.
Although of course, it was uncharacteristic carelessness by Alisson Becker and Virgil Van Dijk that had gifted the Gunners their league victory way back in, er, July. This time the Reds were out-thought and outplayed.
Liverpool could have been forgiven for losing intensity after the Holy Grail was secured with seven games to go.
But if Jurgen Klopp was being earnest about the importance of the Community Shield, this was an opportunity for his team to show they had regained their edge and were fully focused on a first title defence for 30 years.
They started well enough and had the ball in the net inside seven minutes, with Virgil Van Dijk’s effort ruled out for offside.
Some decent pressing led to early Arsenal errors and James Milner should have done better than head the ball over the bar from a Neco Williams cross.
But any Liverpool fans who were nervous about the young full back lining up against goal machine Aubameyang had their fears confirmed immediately after the chance had gone begging at the other end.
Bukayo Saka’s diagonal ball left Williams isolated against the Arsenal captain and he failed to close down quickly enough. Aubameyang cut inside and sent a shot curling sumptuously inside the far post.
He celebrated with a gesture paying tribute to Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, whose death had been announced overnight.
Arteta Forever? The Arsenal head coach’s dreams of building a football dynasty as powerful as Wakanda surely rest, in the short-term at least, on persuading Aubameyang to sign a new deal.
His fifth goal in three games at Wembley over the course of six weeks set the scene for the new regime to lift its second trophy.
Eddie Nketiah should have made it two from Saka’s cross soon afterwards, even though Alisson’s save was very good, and Arsenal scented blood.
Nketiah had another opening before Klopp’s team regained some composure.
But although they were once more enjoying plenty of the ball, they struggled to create decent chances against well-drilled and resolute opponents
For the first time in what feels like ages, Arsenal as a team seem to enjoy defending or, if not enjoy it, not consider it beneath them.
Headers were won, blocks were made, tackles were won. If George Graham was watching, you can bet he was punching the air in delight
Robertson sent in a number of tempting balls but the first half ended without a Liverpool shot on target.
Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane had good chances to equalise soon after the break, but Firmino curled a shot just wide and Arsenal goalkeeper Emi Martinez expertly smothered Mane’s attempt.
At least they went close. Mo Salah, the other member of the fabled front three, was making zero impact. Perhaps his close-season haircut has had a Sampson-like effect on his powers.
Klopp changed personnel and formation in search of inspiration and it worked.
There was a bit more zip about his team in the attacking third and Minamino calmly slotted the ball home as the Arsenal defence claimed in vain for handball.
Mane had a great chance to decide the game before penalties but a heavy touch allowed Martinez to smother bravely again.
Arsenal substitute Joe Willock headed wide at the other end and then it was shootout time.
Substitute Rhian Brewster sent Liverpool’s third penalty against the bar with what may have been his first touch of the evening.
Aubameyang’s last ensured Arsenal would enter the new season with ever-growing belief and momentum.
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