Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
Arsenal won on penalties
- Goals: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m) | Takumi Minamino (£6.5m)
- Assists: Bukayo Saka (£5.5m)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m) furthered his case for a Blank Gameweek 1 captaincy as he starred in Arsenal’s Community Shield final win.
The recently converted Fantasy Premier League midfielder scored an excellent first-half goal as his movement and pace caused all sorts of problems for Liverpool in the opening period at Wembley.
Stationed on the left-hand side of the front-three in Mikel Arteta’s 3-4-3 formation, Aubameyang exploited the space behind right-back Neco Williams (£4.0m) in the 12th minute to get his goal. With the defender standing off him too much, he was able to cut inside on his right foot and curl an effort behind Alisson (£6.0m).
“Big games, big moments, big players. (Aubameyang) responded really well to that kind of pressure. We are close (to a new contract for him).” – Mikel Arteta
The £12.0m man faces Fulham on the opening weekend of the Premier League season and Saturday’s performance is sure to only further increase the interest in handing him the FPL captain’s armband.
Such a decision could arguably be made easier by what Fantasy managers saw of Liverpool attackers in the Community Shield final.
With Leeds coming to Anfield in Gameweek 1, Jurgen Klopp’s men had also been the subject of armband attention, especially Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) – but he was certainly not at the races at Wembley Stadium.
The Egyptian put in a rather anonymous display, certainly a far cry from the shot-heavy shifts we saw at the back-end of Project Restart.
Meanwhile, Sadio Mané (£12.0m) spurned one of Liverpool’s best chances of the game, a poor touch giving him the wrong angle to beat Emiliano Martínez (£4.5m) from close range.
What makes Arsenal’s performance more encouraging, and Liverpool’s less so, is the disparity between the two clubs when it came to preparation.
It was the Gunners who came into the Community Shield final with less pre-season game-time under their belt, with some players managing just one training session before the game. Despite that fact, they shot out of the traps and, for the majority of the first hour, were the most alert in both boxes.
By contrast, Liverpool have already played two pre-season matches but took until the introduction of Takumi Minamino (£6.5m) to offer any real insight going forward.
“David (Luiz) had only trained one day just before the final. He was able to play 90 minutes. Thank you to the players.” – Mikel Arteta
A key factor in Liverpool’s struggles at Wembley was the increasingly organised shape and discipline on offer at Arteta’s Arsenal.
Although Minamino did find a way through in the second half, for the most part, the Gunners’ back-three did an excellent job of containing Liverpool and dealing with Andrew Robertson‘s (£7.0m) relentless crossing.
Staffed by Kieran Tierney (£5.5m), David Luiz (£5.5m) and Rob Holding (£4.5m), the Arsenal backline did an excellent job of crowding out Salah and Mané, beating them to virtually every ball. That certainly bodes well for their defensive prospects in 2020/21, especially with Fulham and West Ham up first.
“A lot of teams play in this formation and in the final third you want to be fresh. You want to force it sometimes. We didn’t have our rhythm so we couldn’t create the chances we wanted.” – Jurgen Klopp
“(I was pleased with) the courage of the team. How aggressive we were without the ball, how well we made the decisions to break the pressure of Liverpool and cause them some issues in the backline.” – Mikel Arteta
However, there is still some uncertainty on how exactly to cover Arsenal’s defence this season with none of the £4.5m options particularly nailed-on just yet.
Holding was a key man against Liverpool but William Saliba (£4.5m), a player from whom much is expected, was on the bench at Wembley.
As for the goalkeeper situation, Arteta stopped short of declaring Martínez the first-choice during his pre-match media commitments.
The Spaniard missed Arsenal’s first pre-season friendly due to quarantine from recent travelling, which is why Bernd Leno (£5.0m) and Matt Macey shared minutes at Stadium MK.
However, Arteta seemed to suggest that the main reason Martínez came straight back into the side was that he helped Arsenal qualify for the Community Shield in the first place, having played in the FA Cup final earlier in the summer. Fantasy managers will have to hope one more pre-season friendly can be squeezed in between now and Blank Gameweek 1 to give us more information on the subject.
“I have two fantastic keepers. I think Emi (Martínez) finished the season really strong. He was our goalkeeper in the FA Cup and he deserves to play this final.” – Mikel Arteta
The stock of Liverpool defenders appears to be travelling in the opposite direction. As already mentioned, in the first half especially, Arsenal looked much more dangerous when pressing forward, exploiting space behind the Reds’ backline.
It was not far from a first-choice defence either, only Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) missing from the usual suspects, but Liverpool still gave up plenty of chances early on.
Williams offered Aubameyang too much room in the first half, Joe Gomez (£5.5m) gave the ball away a little too often and even Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) struggled to keep up with some of the mistakes going on around him.
While this Liverpool defence has not become porous overnight, there are still enough troubling signs that Fantasy managers may think twice about investing in a double-up, especially with Alexander-Arnold left out of the Community Shield as a fitness precaution (although he is due to report for England duty on Monday).
Those on the lookout for cheaper attacking options in the Arsenal ranks will have seen more to like about Bukayo Saka (£5.5m) than Eddie Nketiah (£6.0m). The versatile midfielder was a key man for getting Arsenal moving in their counter-attacks during the first half, playing an excellent cross-field assist for Aubameyang’s goal and twice setting up Nketiah.
The former Leeds loanee has been exploiting the absence of Alexandre Lacazette (£8.5m) this week starting both of Arsenal’s pre-season games so far. With the Frenchman heavily rumoured with an exit, there is a chance that Nketiah could lock in the centre-forward’s role but his performance on Saturday was not quite at the level that will entice Fantasy managers.
Nketiah’s approach play was nice and he was certainly willing to receive the ball but the chances that came his way were not executed well enough.
Arsenal XI (3-4-3): Martínez; Tierney (Kolasinac 83′), Holding, D Luiz; Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Elneny, Bellerín (Cédric 58′); Aubameyang, Nketiah (Nelson 82′), Saka (Willock 82′).
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson, van Dijk, Gomez, N Williams (Minamino 59′); Wijnaldum (Brewster 90+2′), Milner (Keïta 59′), Fabinho; Mané, Firmino (C Jones 83′), Salah.
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