The Community Shield is the traditional curtain-raiser for the Premier League season, and some clubs view this match as a chance to hold a trophy, despite how it may be viewed as insignificant.
Sunday’s match between Chelsea and Manchester City may be a bit of a different affair. With both clubs giving three weeks of holiday to players who played in the World Cup this summer, both sides have been playing a lot of squad players this pre-season.
Sunday is likely to be no different. Both teams have players who just returned from their holidays this weekend and won’t feature on Sunday, but Manchester City’s squad for the Community Shield may more closely resemble the team they’ll select for next Saturday’s Premier League opening match.
But this match might be more important for Chelsea. After the long, drawn-out affair of dismissing former manager Antonio Conte and replacing him with Maurizio Sarri.
The styles of play of Conte and Sarri could not be more different, and Sarri has quickly gotten to work to install his trademark Sarri-ball, featuring quick ball movement to overload areas and high pressure to win it quickly.
It’s a system that he employed successfully at both Napoli and Empoli. Last season’s matchups between Napoli and Manchester City in the group stages of the Champions League had Pep Guardiola in admiration of Sarri’s methods, which aren’t too dissimilar from his own philosophies.
After Conte’s more conservative, pragmatic approach, supporters will welcome a change to attacking football. Some of Sarri’s philosophies have come across in the pre-season, but the players aren’t completely integrated into the system yet, and Sarri’s had to do so without having Willian and Eden Hazard in training, not to mention the cloudy futures of those two and Thibault Courtois.
Luckily, Sarri was able to bring perhaps the most important part of his system from Napoli to join him at Chelsea. Jorginho was a target of Manchester City, as Guardiola viewed him as the replacement for Fernandinho. But Chelsea were able to lure Jorginho to London, and in pre-season, Jorginho showed all his passing skills and his ability to control the tempo of the attack.
On Sunday, players who stood out in pre-season will once again have a chance to push for places in the first team under Sarri. Callum Hudson-Odoi has taken the most of the absence of Willian and Hazard, showing the pace and trickery that’s made him so dangerous for both the Chelsea Youth side that won the treble and for the England U17 World Cup winning side.
As well as Hudson-Odoi has played, it’s unrealistic to imagine that he will displace Pedro, Willian, or Hazard, but Ross Barkley has staked a claim for a starting spot once N’Golo Kante returns from his holiday.
Barkley’s had a tough time since joining in January from Everton, but he possesses the ability to play box-to-box with an ability to play a final ball that was so pivotal to Sarri’s Napoli teams. He’ll likely have to beat out Cesc Fabregas for that position, but with his greater athleticism, Barkley might find himself as a starter come next Saturday’s opener against Huddersfield.
But first comes the Community Shield and a final chance to impress the new manager in an atmosphere that will closely represent that of a competitive match.
While it would be nice to win the Community Shield, it’s hard to see Chelsea doing so. But a good performance against City could give them confidence going into the season.