London, August 6, 2018 - Manchester City eased past Chelsea 2-0 in the Community Shield on Sunday to lift their first silverware of the new season. Sergio Aguero’s brace ensured an emphatic win for Manchester City, leaving newly appointed Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri with plenty to ponder before next weekend’s Premier League kick-off.
Curtain Raiser - The protracted and acrimonious departure of Antonio Conte have taken a toll on Chelsea, not just in terms of morale and results, but in preparation too. Unil Conte had departed – he waited to get the pay-out he wanted – Chelsea could not replace him, and even then Maurizio Sarri was not immediately appointed. As Tammy Abraham, who was on loan last season but wants to fight for his place at Chelsea, points out, it will take time for the new manager to deliver his style of play. They’ll hit the ground, but not running.
Italian predecessors - That showed on Sunday with Chelsea’s ambling performance. The London club were second best on all fronts to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The Citizens’ passing was crisp and incisive. Chelsea were outplayed. It’s early days, but there was no evidence that Chelsea under Sarri would emulate his compatriots, Conte and Carlo Ancelotti, and deliver important silverware in his first season. Guardiola, on the other hand, has the players he wants, a system they understand and as the serial winner demands, the most important ingredient, ‘hunger.’
Transfer rumours - The World Cup ended just three weeks ago, yet Chelsea clearly missed important components – the Belgians, Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard, and even more importantly, N’golo Kanté. It told. Defensive midfield general, Danny Drinkwater, started on the bench. Courtois and Hazard have been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid and the next few days should bring more clarity in the Chelsea camp. Manchester City could leave Kevin de Bruyne out of the squad resting, and not be missed, and start World Cup-winning French defender, Benjamin Mendy.
Attitudes - The difference in attitude to the match, on and off the pitch, could not have been clearer. Chelsea, perhaps needing time to adapt, Manchester City chafing at the bit. Cesc Fábregas has been there, done it all and worn out the t-shirt. The former Arsenal and Barçelona man almost seemed as worn out as the t-shirt. By his high standards he was awful, failing to influence the match defensively or offensively, and in the absence of Hazard, the Blues needed Fábregas to seize the match for them and dictate play – he was missing in action.
Pluses and minuses - It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Callum Hudson-Odoi still found a way to sparkle on occasion, but too few and too far between in the hour that he had. He, at least posed a threat with quick feet and skill, but the end product was a shot straight at Claudio Bravo, who still struggles to impress. It was perhaps fitting that Chelsea’s best attacking moment bar Hudson-Odoi coincided with seemingly typical Bravo exploits. The Chilean keeper completely misjudged a speculative punt forward by Marcos Alonso, which masqueraded as a shot thanks to Bravo.
Sergio Aguero - Meanwhile, Manchester City could afford to be profligate. 2-0 did not tell the story of City’s domination. Sergio Kun Agüero has a seemingly uneasy relationship with his manager if last season’s in and out of the first team is anything to go by. Agüero could afford to miss as many as he scored, and still deliver a Man of the Match performance. In the first half he was through but pulled his shot wide, and in the second, he rounded the keeper, but hit the side-netting from a tight angle.
Nevertheless, he scored a brace – the first catching the eye as he shot between Antonio Rüdiger’s legs to beat former team-mate Willy Caballero. Agüero was teed up by the 18-year-old Phil Foden, a youngster who has already announced his presence to the world at the U-17 World Cup in India last year. He impressed Guardiola with his willingness to fight for a place, despite the players and their reputations ahead of him. The second beat Caballero to his left, after being set up by Bernardo Silva, but the chance was created by Ilkay Gundoğan.
African problem? Club legend Yaya Touré has gone – his departure a little more acrimonious than it should have been. Touré never really got the farewell his service deserved, and he left with a barb directed at Guardiola, claiming that the former Barçelona and Bayern München boss had a problem with African players. Nonsense, he started the ‘African’ Benjamin Mendy
Drawing boards - On the evidence, Chelsea coach Sarri has a big job on his hands and a lot of work to do. The performances must improve, and the players have to understand and deliver the type of football he wants. But behind this are other lessons. He must deliver not only trophies, but in a manner that pleases the club’s billionaire owner, and he must find to cope with player power. Guardiola has other matters to attend to. Retaining the Premier League is rare, but even that is not enough. He must silence one of the taunts from Sunday – ‘Champions of Europe, you’ll never sing that!’