KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Finally . . . the jinx has been broken. Arsene Wenger has scored a victory over Jose Mourinho at the 14th time of asking. That will have made Arsenal’s 1-0 victory in the curtain-raising FA Community Shield all the sweeter.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first-half goal also secured another personal record: Arsenal’s Shield-lifting captain Per Mertesacker has now finished on the winning side on all his seven appearances at Wembley. But more serious team issues and psychological goals were being scored between the two teams expected to contest the title race ahead of the Manchester duo.
Arsenal deserved their 13th outright Shield success. They appeared marginally sharper all over the pitch and Petr Cech, on his first competitive appearance after moving from Chelsea, was a commanding presence in goal.
Up front Theo Walcott, having signed a four-year contract extension in midweek, was lined up at centre-forward by Wenger and suggested that, with work on the training ground he offers an attacking variant even if he will never be the ‘new Thierry Henry.’
As for Chelsea, hamstring trouble ruled out Diego Costa so Loic Remy was preferred as attack leader to new signing Radamel Falcao who replced him at half-time to no greater effect.
Arsenal made the sharper, neater start with Chelsea – Fabregas in particular – wasting a surprising amount of possession.
Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois was the first goalkeeper forced into meaningful action when he grabbed a Walcott header out of the air. But the Belgium keeper was helpless a minute later when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cut in from the right, escaped Cesar Azpilicueta and fired up into the top corner.
This was the Gunners’ first goal in more than 500 minutes of play against Chelsea. England forward Oxlade-Chamberlain was starting only because Alexis Sanchez had been allowed extra time to prepare for the new season after his Copa America-winning efforts from Chile.
Chelsea should have equalised on 36 minutes. Remy escaped to the byline on the left and chipped square where the unmarked Ramires, inexplicably, managed to head over the bar instead of beneath it. It was the only serious threat to Petr Cech in his guise as goalkeeper of Arsenal rather than Chelsea.
Aaron Ramsey, at the other end, thumped an angled shot into the side net then Brane Ivanovic made a brave clearance under his own crossbar as Arsenal ended the first half with their noses in front deservedly.
Mourinho made two early change after half-time with Radamel Falcao and Oscar replacing Remy and Ramires in pursuit of a rebalancing to offer more help for Fabregas and Eden Hazard who had been anonymous until then.
Oscar duly set up the Belgian but, with the goal at his mercy, fired high over the bar. Then the Brazilian curled in a left-wing free kick which prompted a magnificent save from Cech, clawing the ball around his right-hand post at the expense of a corner.
Behind Cech, Mertsesacker remained a solid pillar at the heart of defence but Ozil was rather more fitful in midfield. He was less and less in evidence, and was eventually substituted, as Chelsea raised the tempo in vain search of an equaliser. Indeed, had it not been for the assured form of Courtois, the eventual margin of defeat might have been wider.
Arsenal: Cech – Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal – Coquelin, Ramsey – Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arteta 77), Ozil (Gibbs 81), Cazorla – Walcott (Giroud 65). Manager: Wenger.
Chelsea: Courtois – Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (Moses 81), Azpilicueta (Zouma 69) – Ramires (Oscar 53), Matic – Willian , Fabregas, Hazard – Remy (Falcao 46). Manager: Mourinho.
Referee: Taylor. Attendance: 80 000. Yellow cards: Coquelin – Azpilicueta