On another baking hot afternoon Manchester City certainly did not look under-cooked. The champions set the standard for the new season as they comprehensively out-played – and not just beat – Chelsea to win the Community Shield.
Manager Pep Guardiola had said he was “starving” for more success and his team looked ravenous. Another trophy has come their way, albeit the fifth of importance that they will contest this campaign, but the resonance went far beyond.
There were two goals for the predatory Sergio Aguero – the first being his 200thfor City – but it was the manner of their construction, and the architects of them, that was so impressive. On both occasions City carved through Chelsea.
Phil Foden, the great young hope at still just 18, created the first and also released Aguero with the pass of the match – a wonderful wedged ball through with back-spin to bring it back to the striker – while John Stones continued his imperious form from the World Cup, just three weeks to the day after returning from Russia, and Bernardo Silva looked like a player trying to prove a point. The only disappointment was an indifferent performance from £60million signing Riyad Mahrez and the confirmation, if any were needed, that goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is not going to be challenging Ederson for his place.
For Chelsea’s new manager Maurizio Sarri this was a sobering experience. A bit like the over-size T-shirt be wore Chelsea did not, on this evidence, look like a good fit with his marquee signing of Jorginho struggling to impose himself and Ross Barkley barely involved while it was a miserable day for Alvaro Morata. Jorginho turned down City, of course, to join Chelsea for £57million but this was not a glimpse of what got away.
The Italian will get better and so will Chelsea and not least when they have their World Cup players – N’Golo Kante and, should he stay, Eden Hazard in particular – back but there is work to do for Sarri to impose his bold style. The bright spot? An encouraging hour from 17-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi and not much else.
The goals said it all. They said it all about the daunting gap between these two sides which Chelsea are trying to close. For the first City built from the back with the ball fed to Foden who strode forward and simply laid the ball off to Aguero. Antonio Rudiger anticipated the return pass, moved to his left and the space opened up for Aguero to drive a low left-foot shot through the defender’s legs and into the corner of the net. Good finish; bad defending with Chelsea sitting far too deep.
For Aguero’s second Stones intercepted a pass and ran forward with substitute Ilkay Gundogan laying the ball to Bernardo who threaded it through to Aguero who had ran behind David Luiz. Unerringly he side-footed home. It should, in fact, have completed a hat-trick for Aguero who had earlier been released on goal by Foden with his brilliant pass with the outside of his boot but the Argentinean hesitated, rounded goalkeeper Willy Caballero but then shot into the side-netting. Soon after he drew a smart block from his compatriot with a fierce volley.
Such was City’s dominance that Guardiola could experiment as he pushed Stones into midfield for the final 10 minutes after bringing on Vincent Kompany while Foden rightly received a standing ovation as he, too, was substituted.
Full time: Chelsea 0 Man City 2
Chelsea end things with microcosmic sloppiness and defensive chaos that almost gives City a third. Jon Moss’s whistle ends their 37-degree torture, and Pep Guardiola has another bit of minor silverwear for his collection!
Maurizio Sarri’s first Wembley visit ends with a notebook full of Things To Do Next Week. This was a well-drilled, elite-level team picking up against a squad being turned inside out.
City don’t have much to worry about, as their World Cup players filter back into the equation, but – even if knee-jerk reactions are banned from the Community Shield – there is zero chance of Chelsea flying out of the Premier Legaue traps this season. There is simply too much for them to do.
90 min+2 – Chelsea 0 Man City 2
Into injury time, of which there will be four minutes. Sergio Aguero is announced as the man of the match for his two goals.
89 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 2
Mild chaos. Ross Barkley races down the right, Abraham is screaming for the ball in the middle, Bravo gets there first, Moses comes steaming in, the ball is bundled wide.
85 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 2
At one end, Gabriel Jesus nearly beats David Luiz to a long ball. At the other, Kompany foils Moses with a thunderous block-tackle. Entertaining last few exchanges, as Sarri urges his Chelsea players to squeeze every last but of effort out, despite the conditions.
81 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 2
John Stones is now playing in midfield. An embarrassment of riches.
79 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 2
City try and turn the screw, Benjamin Mendy turns into a left-winger for the moment, and Diaz slaps a shot into the side netting. Victor Moses – theorised to be one of the victims of Chelsea’s new formation – is on for Pedro, while “Vincent Kompany for Sergio Aguero” is a novel substitution for City.
76 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 2
Foden off, emphatic pat on the back from Guardiola, Brahim Diaz on.
73 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 2
Walker scoops a cross to the back post, where Aguero is waiting to complete his hat-trick, but Caballero beats away his bouncing volley. Chelsea have had just one shot on target, meanwhile.
69 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 2
Aguero nearly shows up the Chelsea high line again, but he’s millimetres offside. Mahrez’s afternoon shift is over, and on comes Gabriel Jesus with that permanently worried-looking little face of his.
65 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 2
Bernardo Silva has caught the eye, but Chelsea haven’t been able to catch him very often, and he earns a few olés by hoodwinking another tiring opponent. Space is starting to open up in the attacking half…
60 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 2
Willian is on for Hudson-Odoi, and Cesc Fabregas has made way for Danny Drinkwater. Sarri’s gameplan ought to be to keep this deficit at two, really.
GOAL! Chelsea 0 Man City 2
Kyle Walker’s pace bales out City a couple of times as Chelsea go a little more direct but, at the other end, the counter-attacks are mounting up. The next one batters down the Chelsea door, and this time Sergio Aguero makes no mistake after Bernardo Silva slips him in. Simple stuff, and Sarri will have plenty to watch in his morning video analysis session…
53 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Phil Foden is next to trouble Caballero, with a low shot from 20 yards, and City are well in control of things right now.
50 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Chance! Aguero should have wrapped it up. He springs the Chelsea offside trap, has an age to decide what to do, but his jink to the right is guessed by Caballero, and the eventual shot hits the side netting.
47 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Chelsea start the second half brightly enough, only for Jorginho then to have his pocket picked in midfield before Aguero slides a shot wide of the post. It really only takes City about five seconds to punish you.
Back out at Wembley…
No changes for Chelsea at the break, while City – after keeping Sarri’s men waiting for a few moments – introduce Ilkay Gundogan in place of Leroy Sane. He’s sporting a protective face mask.
Half time: Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Manchester City have the advantage, and it threatened to be more than that single Sergio Aguero goal, before Chelsea grew into the first half.
Riyad Mahrez has settled in perfectly, the ideal foil to Sane’s more direct threat on the other flank. As for Chelsea’s new face, Jorginho has done his best to get a new rhythm going in their midfield, but Ross Barkley will need to hear a few more bars of it yet.
It’s either hugely encouraging or rather worrying for Chelsea that their main attacking threat has come almost entirely from a 17-year-old, but Callum Hudson-Odoi isn’t going to save this game on his own. Decent stuff so far at Wembley, though – welcome back, football!
40 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Chelsea are only a half-yard off City, in fairness. The pressing’s been good so far, and Jorginho really is a lovely footballer, but it’ll take more than 90 minutes for them to work out how to turn tidy one-twos into goalscoring chances for Morata. And he needs a few, it seems.
35 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Hudson-Odoi goes again – inside he comes, and he scoops a shot straight at Bravo, who gathers the ball at the second attempt. Perhaps it’s time for Morata and Ross Barkley – whose only contribution so far has been to shove Foden over – to show up here.
32 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Pedro and Morata link up to release Hudson-Odoi on the left – again, it seems he’s been given licence to go for it with the ball – and he cuts inside to curl a shot well over Claudio Bravo’s crossbar.
30 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Back under way, with shirts saturated with sweat already. Caballero, who had a nightmare of a World Cup, isn’t inspiring a huge amount of confidence with the ball at his feet. That’s another department which Sarri has less than a week to sort.
26 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Morata slaps a shot high and wide, which is a convenient moment for the referee to signal the first water break. Chelsea have had 56% of the ball, but City have had about 99% of the cohesion.
24 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Chelsea gift the ball away again, and should have been punished. Aguero waits for Sane to catch up, slips him in, but a heavy touch allows Caballero to race out and smother the ball. Starting to wonder if defending was on next month’s curriculum for Sarri.
20 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Chelsea are very nearly caught out with one of City’s occasional surprise long-ball attacks down the middle, but Luiz and Rudiger eventually sort themselves out. No question over which looks like the team being fast-tracked into a whole new system, and which looks like they could operate theirs in their sleep.
16 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 1
Chelsea force their first corner in immediate response. Sarri doesn’t seem the panicky sort on the evidence of his short tenure so far, so it would take quite the calamity for him to treat this game as anything more than a lesson on who can hack the art of Sarriball. Meanwhile, City are picking up where they left off last season.
GOAL! Chelsea 0 Man City 1 (Aguero 13)
Come on in Mr Aguero, and have yourself your 200th Manchester City goal.Sergio Aguero 18 yards out, and he slams a left-foot shot underneath Caballero! Far too easy.
11 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 0
Early Jorginho impressions: it’s no wonder he was top of the European passing charts last season, because his one-touch ability in the midfield maelstrom is exceptional. Not at all sure Chelsea can accommodate him and Fabregas in too many matches, though.
8 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 0
First glimpse of Hudson-Odoi on the break. Faced with Kyle Walker, he briefly thinks about making it a footrace, before cutting inside and losing the ball. This, it’s fair to say, is something of a free hit for the 17-year-old – go out there and enjoy yourself, son.
5 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 0
Manchester City stroke the ball around in their slither of shade, sensibly enough, before Bernardo Silva is released down the left. He gets to the byline, but his cross evades Aguero and Mahrez…
3 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 0
Riyad Mahrez has his first dance inside the Chelsea area, but David Luiz stands firm to block. Moments later, Leroy Sane – fresh from his World Cup omission – sprints forward to pelt a left-foot shot wide of Willy Caballero’s left-hand upright.
1 min – Chelsea 0 Man City 0
Referee Jon Moss gets us going at Wembley – which looks BOILING HOT.
Chelsea look long for Hudson-Odoi early doors, but it’s City who get into some early possession. Sarri’s straight out into his technical area to assess things.
Dress code update
Sarri’s baggy club-issue sportswear just trumping Pep Guardiola’s day-with-the-kids garb for casualness. The national anthem is being sung, meanwhile.
Retro Shield Corner, Pts. 1 & 2
“Mr 33”: the Maurizio Sarri story
Oliver Brown went all the way to the Tuscan town of Figline Valdarno to find out just where this Sarri character came from.
This time, Roman Abramovich has chosen a manager who cuts against convention, who gave up a lucrative banking job to accept barely one fifth of the salary in lower-league football, and whose fanaticism about footballers’ conditioning is contradicted by his own obsessive chain-smoking. “The cigarettes are his one defect,” says Enrico Bonatti, a retired lithographer, who has known the Sarri family for decades. He acknowledges the problem Sarri could face in English stadiums, which impose stringent smoking bans, but adds: “A few Italian journalists are trying to sort out a room for him at Chelsea so that he can still do it.”
“You can’t win anything with kids”
Here’s Jeremy Wilson on one of Chelsea’s pre-season success stories, 17-year-old whippet Callum Hudson-Odoi, who starts at Wembley today.
Inter Milan’s Roberto Gagliardini, Danilo D’Ambrosio and Kwadwo Asamoah are seasoned international players but there was a moment in the 53rd minute of Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Chelsea when they were made to look like part-time Sunday League interlopers. They had crowded their target but, in a blur of quick feet and breathtaking skill, all three were suddenly left stranded.
As for Phil Foden, our man James Ducker has him covered too:
Having only turned 18 in May, there is a recognition Foden has plenty of time on his side but it is with good reason that staff at the club refer to him as the “Stockport Iniesta” given his similarities to the former Barcelona maestro, Andrés Iniesta. City’s senior players have their own nickname for Foden: “Pep’s lad”, a nod to the affection and admiration the manager has for him.
Tactics Corner, with JJ Bull
My colleague JJ Bull has previewed this one – and predicted the starting lineups fairly accurately too.
Given it is so early in the season, players may not be as sharp as they will later in the year. But Sarri’s main problem is a lack of time. He might not even know his best centre-back pairing yet, let alone a starting XI, and it will take time for Chelsea to adapt from the 3-4-3 defensive, counter-attack strategy of Antonio Conte to the free-form, flowing football we saw in Naples.
Both managers employ a high-risk, high-reward strategy which allows for goals and entertaining football. Guardiola’s players might be short of pre-season fitness but he has been drilling his ideas into the Man City squad for two years now and will have a clear advantage – certainly organisational-wise – over his rival manager.
Sarri, still to welcome back his latter-stage World Cup heroes, has picked the following lineup, which includes 17-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi:
City, meanwhile, look very strong – and there’s a start for a wonderkid of their own, Phil Foden:
The mighty Delta
Here’s the official ball. Can’t go wrong with Mitre, even if other ball manufacturers remain available.
Pep and Sarri: kindred spirits
“Guardiola told me here in England that it is very difficult, the level is very high,” said Sarri, who declared his desire to remain at Chelsea for a decade. “He had some problems in the first season, but he said that football is football everywhere. Sure, he said, ‘Come to England’, every coach in this moment wants to work in England. The Premier League is the best league in the world. I am very lucky to be here.”
Refreshingly, given how many Chelsea managers seem to have had simmering beef with their rivals, Maurizio Sarri is like *this* with Pep Guardiola. They were summoned to dinner by the great Arrigo Sacchi back in June, and the Manchester City manager gave the new Chelsea manager a warts-and-all briefing on what to expect in English football.
Curses and curtain-raisers
Does this game matter? Allow me to investigate:
The real problem with the Community Shield – being, as it is, the first official day back at school for players, managers, fans, correspondents, and so on – is that it compels us to read far too much into its contents. Long seasons ahead are diagnosed on the basis of one second-gear defeat to a rival, even before the whole squad has reconvened after their summer exploits and, conversely, its winners are simply off to an artificially flying start.
So, with the intention of reading too much into the practice of reading too much into something, what are the cautionary tales of getting carried away by the cumbersome, octagonal honour of the Community Shield?
There’s the old dish – in all its octagonal, don’t-read-too-much-into-it glory – a rare example of a trophy that 1) you can’t drink out of, or 2) wear part of it as a hat.
We go again.
“So when does it all end?”
It’s just 21 days since football’s summer of love ended with France lifting the World Cup in Moscow. That’s given most of us about 500 hours to fill with horrifyingly non-football things (Love Island, this apocalyptic heatwave, even – christ - Test cricket) but the close season has a funny habit of always lasting just about the right time.
One day, you’re convinced you’re not ready for the cagey starts, the last-gasp heroics and the what’s-the-thinking-there-Peps of a whole new season. The next, you can’t wait.
The fortunate fans of the 72 Football League clubs have already been officially released from their football-less voids this weekend, but Premier League football is still a week away.
Before that, the curtain has to be traditionally raised. The Community Shield (renamed from the Charity Shield in 2002 after it was adjudged to not actually be charitable enough – awkward) has that annual job, and it generally does it quite well. Wembley offers, as standard, all the pomp and ceremony of a cup final, but the Shield has none of the unbearable tension that tends to suffocate/enhance them.
Win, and it’s a trophy; lose, and it’s just another friendly. That’s been the perennial mantra for the Community Shield but, given this particularly strangulated off-season, it seems even more appropriate this time round.
And pre-seasons don’t come shorter than when you’ve only been in the job for three weeks, charged with transplanting Europe’s most thrilling brand of football from Naples to west London, and with a few more words of English to master at the same time: Maurizio Sarri might need a cigarette or two after his gentle baptism of fire this afternoon.
Chelsea, the FA Cup winners, take on the record-breaking defending league champions Manchester City. It kicks off at 3pm, neither team is likely to bear much resemblance to their managers’ ideal first-choice lineup, and we’re not supposed to read anything into the result.
But it should be fun. Undercooked, work-in-progress fun, but still fun.
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