Why The Community Shield is a Massive Game for the Chelsea and Conte
For many years the Community Shield has been regarded as formality; an extension of pre-season in which the competing sides can get a clearer idea of their preferred line up for the ‘proper’ test of Premier League football.
But as the competition for top six places has tightened, so the value of all domestic trophies has markedly increased, with even Jose Mourinho claiming that Manchester United’s win over Leicester City in the 2016 Community Shield represented the first of United’s ‘three trophies’ last season.
But for Chelsea, the game represents a crucial opportunity to renew Antonio Conte’s faith in the Blues as a long-term project.
The Italian left Juventus in 2014 after winning three successive Serie A titles with the Turin club, citing a failure to be fully supported in the transfer market as the main motivation for moving on.
Though Chelsea have spent over £100m so far this summer, Conte is reportedly unhappy with the club’s failure to land Romelu Lukaku and other targets as the Blues face the added strain of Champions League football this season.
Conte took the extraordinary step of imploring his players to avoid a ‘Mourinho season’ in the past few days, in an attempt to galvanise the five-time Premier League winners, and history suggests a strong display will be important.
Chelsea’s disastrous 2015-16 season was preceded by a dire pre-season campaign in which the champions failed to record a single victory. A 1-0 defeat to Arsenal in the Community Shield followed - Wenger’s first win over Mourinho in 14 attempts - and Chelsea never truly recovered.
Pre-season games are by no means a fair test of a team’s true condition, but the manner of Chelsea’s defeats, particularly against Bayern was alarming.
Chelsea were 2-0 down inside 12 minutes against Die Roten with the Italian’s experienced side looking uncharacteristically disjoined without the ball for most of the game.
Inter Milan also outclassed the Premier League champions with the respectable 2-1 scoreline coming only as a result of a spectacular own goal by Inter midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia.
Chelsea have looked decidedly uninspired without the injured Eden Hazard and the Blues will look to prove on Sunday that they are a complete team who will not over-rely the mesmeric Belgian in order to compete next season.