Community Shield Closeup: Pre-Season Glance, Tactics, and the Players to Watch
Welcome one and all to the return of opposition closeups. Shirley and I hope you’ve enjoyed the break, (its been excruciating, we know), and are ready for what looks to be, on paper, a tremendous fixture with the Community Shield.
Though Jürgen Klopp was eager to downplay the significance of the traditional curtain-raiser, an opportunity to win silverware – even the less fervently coveted Community Shield – before the season proper begins, is not one to simply swat aside.
It has nothing to do for me with the rest of season. It’s a game, and if we only have eight players available, for example, I would like to try to win it, it’s a final!
The German looked utterly bewildered when one reporter referred to the Community Shield as a ‘pre-season friendly,’ questioning why the fixture was played at all if it was perceived so poorly within England. Yet ambition was tempered with caution, as Klopp made it clear that the result would be meaningless in terms of predicting the future Premier League champions.
Looking at the history of the competition, its difficult to disagree with that assessment. In only eight of the twenty-six seasons following the inception of the Premier League (2003-2019) did a side go on to secure the league title after winning the Community Shield (United x5; Chelsea x2; City x1). Though City did accomplish the feat the season prior, one would be hard pressed to argue any case of correlation between the two trophies.
Though Liverpool’s pre-season preparations haven’t exactly been ideal, having missed key players in defeats against Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla, and Napoli, whilst only securing a meagre draw against Sporting Lisbon, City have had concerns of their own to contend with.
City’s squad arrived in Shanghai two days late following administrative issues, heavily fatigued. Though convincing scorelines racked up over the course of pre-season would suggest things are still ticking over smoothly, the quality of opposition faced seems comparably poorer. Where Liverpool faced two Champions League sides in Dortmund and Napoli, the strongest sides Pep Guardiola’s men faced were both Premier League outfits in West Ham (won 4-1) and Wolves (drew 0-0). There is also squad unrest to consider, with much speculation over the future of star wide-man, Leroy Sané, strongly linked with a move to German suitors Bayern Munich.
Regardless of transfer rumours and a mixed pre-season however, one must expect that the incumbent champions will be a difficult foe to knock off the perch of English football.
Tactics and Predicted Line-ups
Liverpool XI – 4-3-3
DC: Van Dijk
It’s a tough one.
Last time Liverpool faced City, Klopp fielded the same conservative midfield as he had in the earlier fixture at Anfield, comprising of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Georginio Wijnaldum. The midfield trio is an admittedly solid option, if somewhat un-creative, however, I can’t help but hope that the German might opt instead for the more exciting, if less sensible at the moment, duel pivot of Fabinho and Naby Keita. Fabinho has certainly more than made the case for a starting slot, given his performances in the latter half of the 2018/19 season, and he has, unlike his Copa America winning compatriots, undergone a full pre-season with the squad.
But what of the front three? Klopp has already ruled out a return for Sadio Mané until after the Community Shield, and usual starters, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have played only seventy-six minutes of pre-season football between them due to their involvement in the Copa America. That being said, with Firmino being so integral to Klopp’s style of play, we should probably assume that he will be one of the first names on the teamsheet. Klopp will know he has to be careful with his returnees, but I think he also knows that he has to include Salah too, even if only for a half or so. Then it’s Champions League hero, Divock Origi, on the left for me.
Manchester City XI – 4-2-3-1
MC: Hernández Cascante (Rodri)
More defensive woes for Guardiola’s men as Benjamin Mendy is still fighting to be fit for the upcoming Premier League season. The former Barcelona head coach did address his absence by triggering the buy-back clause of former player, Angelino, sold to PSV Eindhoven last summer. The full-back has registered mixed performances throughout pre-season however, and so it would appear that City’s full-back worries will be an ongoing issue for some time, at least until either the Spaniard finds a more consistent vein of form or Mendy returns to full fitness. Zinchenko was a consistent performer in the role during the 2018/19 season, and though his natural position arguably lies further afield, I would expect Guardiola to favour the more reliable option in the Ukrainian.
As far as I am concerned, the rest of the side picks itself. Guardiola did tweak his formation away to Anfield last term, favouring a midfield-heavy 4-2-3-1, and I think he’ll use the same come the Community Shield on Sunday. Despite Liverpool’s defensive troubles during pre-season, I can’t see a first choice Liverpool back four having as many problems as City’s at this point in time. In which case, City will have to shore up the midfield.
Hey everyone, welcome to the start of the 2019/20 season. I don’t know about you, but I am still on a bit of a high from the UCL win. Every time I hear the number 6, I feel a tingle (we won it 6 times). Anyway, back to the matter at hand.
So it’s the Community Shield on Sunday against the Citizens. What a way to start the season if we can win the trophy (I believe we can). We all know by now the quality Manchester City players possess; heck, even if you lived under a rock, last season’s talk about City’s “quality” would have reached you by now (no disrespect meant).
From Farrell’s possible line-up above, the players I am most wary about are Kevin DeBruyne and Leroy Sane. Now, with the drawn-out transfer saga, no one knows how for much longer Sane will remain a City player. And it is indeed proof that City is a formidable side even without DeBruyne (for large spells last season). He has had a full pre-season under his belt and is fit; thus, he’s the guy we want to deny room to create or take a shot. Sane’s the guy we need to deny room to run (almost impossible, isn’t it?). There’s also a certain Sterling, Bernado and David Silva.
Call me petty, but it is good to know that they have some defensive woes to deal with, in view of Aymeric Laporte’s knock during the preseason and Mendy’s continued absence. We need every advantage we can get.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR; Kevin DeBruyne, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva.
Come on lads, we can do this. YNWA!!!