Arsenal has been called on to build on their Community Shield victory against Chelsea by making an intense and spirited start to the new Premier League season.
Arsène Wenger goes into the new campaign under intense scrutiny having signed a two‑year contract last May on the back of a campaign in which his side failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1997. But he appeared an emboldened figure after his side overcame the champions at Wembley on Sunday via a 4-1 penalty shootout victory after the contest had ended 1-1 in normal time.
Wenger described winning the Community Shield, the 15th in Arsenal’s history, as “an encouragement” and now wants his side to avoid their poor starts to the previous two Premier League campaigns, when they lost their opening fixtures on both occasions, in order to mount a serious title challenge.
“We want to find a balance between the confidence we can get out of this game and the urgency every Premier League game demands,” he said. “We had some bad starts recently but we have had intensity in our preparation, so let’s go into the Premier League with the same discipline, the same spirit and see where we can go.”
Arsenal fell behind to Victor Moses’s strike shortly after half-time but did not wilt and equalised when the summer arrival Sead Kolasinac scored with an 82nd‑minute header. The goal came from a free-kick given for a studs-up tackle by Pedro on Mohamed Elneny that led to the Spaniard being sent off.
The penalty shootout was the first in this country to deploy the ABBA system. Following successive misses by Chelsea’s goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, and record signing, Álvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud scored the decisive spot kick for Arsenal to give them victory over Chelsea at the national stadium for the second time in 71 days following their triumph in the FA Cup final in May.
Antonio Conte was left frustrated not only by the outcome but by the decision of the referee, Bobby Madley, not to award his side a penalty on 35 minutes after Willian fellinside Arsenal’s area following a challenge by Hector Bellerin.
“A lot of people told me penalty was clear,” the Italian said before going on to defend the decision to let Courtois step up in the shootout. “He is one of the best players [at the club] at taking penalties,” he said of the Belgian.
Chelsea begin their title defence against Burnley on Saturday, when Conte will hope to have Eden Hazard and his new signing Tiémoué Bakayoko available to play. Both missed this match due to a lack of match sharpness.