Less than a month after the 2019/20 domestic season drew to a close a new campaign begins on Saturday as Arsenal and Liverpool meet in the Community Shield at Wembley.
Like Liverpool, Arsenal are 15-time winners of the Community Shield and set to appear in the Wembley showcase for the 24th time with the two sides having met in this fixture three times before.
Liverpool are appearing in this annual curtain-raiser for the second successive year following a penalty shootout defeat by Manchester City last season, but this time as Premier League champions having finally ended their 30-year wait for the title.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have warmed up for the contest with a pre-season training camp in Austria that included friendlies against Stuttgart and RB Salzburg and while their Premier League title defence doesn’t get underway until September 12, the Reds are keen to lay down an early marker to their title rivals.
And just five weeks after Jordan Henderson lifted the Premier League trophy the Liverpool skipper is aware that all eyes will be on his side as they look to defend a title for the first time in three decades.
New season, new start
“We’ve been cracking on, really working hard. New season, new start, and a lot more things we want to go on and achieve,” Henderson told Liverpool’s official website.
“I’m really excited to see what we can do this season, another big season for us. Hopefully we can take confidence from the last year or two but we need to stay hungry and need to keep the desire to go and want more.
“I can certainly see that from the first days that I’ve watched training in pre-season.”
Klopp has yet to add to his title-winning squad this summer will likely face a stiffer test from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, while big-spending Chelsea and Manchester United both finished last season strongly.
But Henderson, whose team finished 18 points ahead of second-placed City, has no doubts Liverpool are up to the task of retaining their crown.
“You’ve got to look at the players in the squad and the manager as well, it’s always about looking forward and wanting more and improving,” he said.
“Just to keep going and win as many trophies as we can because we’ve proven that over the last few years we’re a top team.
“Pre-season is no different. You’ve got to train so hard to be ready for the first game of the season, which for us comes against Arsenal in the Community Shield.
New Look Arsenal takes shape
Arsenal’s place in this season’s Community Shield came about due to their record 14th FA Cup triumph against Chelsea on August 1st.
This came after a season of turbulence with Mikel Arteta thrust into his first managerial job at this footballing superpower following the December sacking of Unai Emery.
That Wembley victory was fitting reward for the Spaniard’s early impact and this meeting with the champions, who they beat 2-1 at Emirates Stadium towards the end of the season, is the ideal chance to maintain the momentum from just a few weeks ago.
But since then, top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has kept Arsenal waiting as they try to persuade him to extend a contract that expires at the end of this season.
Arteta is confident Arsenal’s captain will commit his future to the club, however, while Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi could be brought back from exile after being left out towards the end of last season as a new-look Arsenal side begins to take shape.
The arrival of Willian from Chelsea is sure to add experience and creativity while the 22-year-old central defender Gabriel Magalhaes, expected to arrive from Lille, could bring with him the defensive stability the Gunners so desperately need.
Especially as he is expected to team up with 19-year-old William Saliba who is now at Arsenal after being loaned back to St Etienne as part of a £27m deal in 2019.
“I have been really clear that everybody starts from zero,” Arteta said of his squad before Saturday’s game.
“All the time in football, what you did two weeks ago or two years ago doesn’t matter. It is what you are able to contribute to the team now so everybody is going to have the same opportunities.
“They have to show with their performance and attitude that they are better than their team-mates or they are somehow contributing to what we want to achieve this season.”
Can Arsenal buck the trend?
The League winners are traditionally likelier to win the Community Shield than the FA Cup winners down the years, though history is on the side of the North London side.
The champions have hoisted the Shield aloft 42 times compared to 19 triumphs by the FA Cup winners, while the Shield has been shared on 10 occasions.
But Arsenal have bucked that trend in each of their last three visits, beating champions Chelsea on penalties in 2017, while also defeating the Blues in 2015 and the year before they overcame Manchester City 3-0.
This is not reflected in the markets though with Arsenal 4.95* to win this trophy for the 16th time, despite beating the Premier League champions at the Emirates towards the tail-end of last season.
But Liverpool were very much in cruise control that night having already won the title, so expect Jurgen Klopp’s men to come out of the traps quickly as they look to defend their crown with the Reds 1.66* to win in 90 minutes on Saturday.
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