Arsenal lifted the first piece of silverware this season after beating Liverpool on penalties in their FA Community Shield showdown at Wembley this Saturday afternoon.
The official curtain-raiser ended in a 1-1 stalemate with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang giving the Gunners an early lead which Reds second half substitute Takumi Minamino cancelled out late into the game.
With no extra-time the contest swiftly moved to a dreaded shootout which saw Mikel Arteta’s men come out on top winning 5-4. Rhian Brewster, who came on in the final seconds, missed the all-important kick. His thunderous effort crashed off the crossbar.
As the dust begins to settle, here are five things we learned from this pulsating encounter.
1. Mr. Wembley breaks his duck
To describe Liverpool as one of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s least favourite opponents since moving to England would be an understatement. The 31-year-old Gabonese forward before today’s showdown had faced Jurgen Klopp’s men on no fewer than four occasions — all being Premier League outings — and in each appearance (totalling 266 minutes) failed to register a goal or assist.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 29, 2020
That being said, heading into this clash he was Arsenal’s man to watch and those expectations were matched in the 12th minute when the former Borussia Dortmund man curled in a spectacular effort — reminiscent of Thierry Henry — past a scrambling Alisson to give Mikel Arteta’s side a shock lead. In only his fourth match at the home of English football, Aubameyang has now bagged five goals, thus living up to the ‘Mr. Wembley’ moniker.
2. Saka stakes a claim
Aubameyang’s effort wouldn’t have been possible for Bukayo Saka’s pinpoint pass, for those following the Arsenal teenager none of this comes as a surprise, his breakthrough campaign at the Emirates Stadium — which just so happened to be last season — was a learning experience and test of character. Saka, a winger by trade, was utilised in a multitude of positions most noteworthy stepping in at left-back when Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac were not available for selection. He made the most of his minutes and ultimately earned Arteta’s trust.
— Bukayo Saka (@BukayoSaka87) July 23, 2020
This latest assist subsequently puts him in esteemed company, since the start of last season only Kevin De Bruyne (22) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (15) have created more goals in all competitions among Premier League players than him (13). Having worn the number 77 last term, Saka’s newfound status can be perfectly illustrated by now donning the club’s fabled number 7 jersey previously worn by such luminaries as Robert Pires, David Rocastle and Liam Brady. If he’s able to live up to their standards, which he’s given himself a great chance of doing, then the Gunners will have an excellent footballer on their hands.
3. Trent’s absence felt
— Neco Williams (@necowilliams01) August 25, 2020
Speaking of the inimitable Alexander-Arnold he was missing for the Reds due to recovering from a troublesome injury that forced him to sit out Liverpool’s recent Austrian training camp. Klopp in the build-up to facing Arsenal was quietly confident of the creative right-back being involved, but that never transpired, in his place was teenage full-back Neco Williams who started in three of their last five Premier League games last season. These valuable minutes will undoubtedly be pivotal in his long-term development, though in the meantime Williams — despite the potential he possesses — is no substitute for Alexander-Arnold.
Is there anyone who can given many consider him to be arguably world football’s premier right-back. It was telling he made the fewest accurate passes (15) of those who began in Liverpool’s back eight and failed to create a single chance which is Alexander-Arnold’s calling card. Matters weren’t helped as Williams often came up against Aubameyang, his struggles though came to an end just over half an hour before full-time when Klopp took him off for Takumi Minamino thus creating a tactical reshuffle that saw Joe Gomez move to right-back and Fabinho partnering Virgil van Dijk.
4. Minamino arrives
Games between Arsenal and Liverpool guarantee one thing and that is goals, lots of them, in fact over 3.5 goals has come in in eight of their last ten meetings. It wasn’t long ago that a EFL Cup tie saw them share 10 goals across 90 minutes. So for this to be 1-0 in Arsenal’s favour — a nice callback to the days of George Graham — with 20 minutes remaining on the clock was surprising indeed. And this wasn’t a game of few chances, with Liverpool registering the bulk of them and even had a goal chalked off for offside.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) August 29, 2020
Klopp’s men getting back into the contest was inevitable especially with their dangerous front-three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane on the pitch but the equaliser never came from them, instead super-sub Minamino who in his 15th appearance for the Reds grabbed a first goal, cooly slotting past Emiliano Martínez to force the equaliser, which should no doubt boost his confidence heading into the forthcoming season.
5. Broken clear
This game was always going to be decided by Aubameyang, who is yet to reaffirm his allegiance to Arsenal, this upcoming season being the last on the deal he penned after swapping Dortmund for London’s most successful club. Presented with the opportunity to strike the winning penalty he duly obliged. Attention will soon turn to Aubameyang’s contract situation but for now he’s responsible for Arsenal claiming their 16th shield, one more than Liverpool, with only Manchester United (21) ahead on the winner list.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 29, 2020
Though a draw technically, as the game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes, this nevertheless goes down as a victory which is something the Gunners are accustomed to at Wembley in recent times; before today Arsenal had won 14 of their last 15 appearances at Wembley since that Birmingham game. The only blemish was another League Cup loss (against Manchester City in 2018). Success in this game, though, is no guarantee of being first in England’s top division. Of the last eight winners only City, who claimed the 2018 edition, would go on to lift the championship later in the season and they were pushed mighty close by Liverpool.