Does The Community Shield Result Matter? No, But The Performances Do

Had I not had a particularly busy weekend, complete with house-warming and the need to prepare for that, I was planning to write this piece before a ball had even been kicked in the Community Shield, such is the extent to which I don’t think the performance is relevant to much of anything. As it happens, however, life took over and I’m here writing it the day after we’ve all watched Liverpool and Manchester City fight out an entertaining draw before the latter took the trophy thanks to the lottery of penalties. For the record, had you offered me the Reds winning it but Simon Mignolet staying for the rest of the season or us losing and the Belgian getting his transfer wish granted, I’m honestly not sure which one I’d have gone for. In that sense it feels very win-win for me today, so I’m even less disappointed in the outcome of the match.

I’ve been banging the drum about pre-season friendlies being irrelevant for some time, largely because we have no idea what state the manager’s expecting his team to be in when the matches get underway. We also don’t know what he’s asked of his players to do in terms of formation and tactics, so the idea of judging the outcome of the game without any of that information strikes me as moronic. I think Pep Guardiola has planned to get his team fit and firing for the start of the last two campaigns, hoping to build up such an unassailable lead in the league that everyone else focusses on something else. It didn’t work last season, but maybe this year he thinks Liverpool will burn out at the end of the campaign and therefore his team need to hit their peak in February or March, whilst Jürgen Klopp wants his lads ready for a busy start to the campaign. We just don’t know, so the result is irrelevant. The performance, on the other hand, matters very much.

We Won It On Points

Ultimately in football matches the only thing that matters is the scoreline. Manchester City won’t care about the performance as they lifted the shiny thing at the end of it. For Liverpool, though, we can walk away from that match and feel as though we’re well placed to give Pep Guardiola and his team a run for their money again this term. Prior to the match, I believed that only two results would actually be of any real importance: one where Manchester City battered us and one where we battered them. As it happens, the Spaniard will know that his side is likely to be pushed all the way by us once more, with the Community Shield result being the perfect encapsulation of last time out: There was virtually nothing to separate the two teams but the Cityzens just had a little bit more luck than we did. They might have been the ones taking the trophy home, but I think our coach will have been the more buoyant one as both teams headed back up north in the wake of the final whistle.

There’s little question that Guardiola’s team settled into the game quicker than we did, attacking us time and again and getting in behind the defence seemingly at will. I was intrigued by the high line we decided to play whenever Claudio Bravo had the ball, especially as it kept working in their favour and putting us on the back foot. That’s the sort of thing I mean when I talk about not knowing what the manager wants from his team or why. When the teams emerged for the second-half, however, it was like a switch had been flipped. Liverpool clicked into gear and City started to look tired, with the result only likely to go one way. In the end it was, like the Premier League title 2018-2019, down to a matter of inches. Twice City had to scramble the ball away from their goal line in order to avoid defeat. Mo Salah looked sharp and dangerous and had he had more than half a pre-season game under his belt I’m willing to bet he’d have finished a couple of his chances. To use a boxing analogy, we won it on points.

What It Might Mean For The Season To Come

I’m always wary of reading too much into results of friendlies, even those so close to the start of the new campaign, and deciding that they mean something definitive. One thing I think we can take away from Wembley is the fact that the massive concerns of some during pre-season were perhaps a touch premature. Liverpool might not be firing on all cylinders just yet but we’re certainly in better shape than it appeared in the wake of the Napoli game. That being said, it’s not exactly out of the realms of the possible that we drop points to Norwich, lose to Chelsea and suddenly we’re panicked about what’s to come. I don’t think that’s likely, however, and feel that the Reds are in good shape. Indeed, I think one aspect of yesterday’s result is that the other teams in the league won’t be looking forward to playing either of the teams involved. I can’t imagine Norwich City’s manager, staff or players watching that and being excited about their trip to Anfield on Friday night.

It was a match that gave the impression that Manchester City and Liverpool are still going to be lightyears ahead of the rest of the top six when hostilities renew next weekend. Yet we won’t know for sure how things are looking compared to everyone else until we all actually play each other, so I’ll be watching City’s matchup with Tottenham in the second weekend of the season with a keen interest. Do Mauricio Pochettino’s recent comments suggest that all is not well in north London? Or are they just a sign of him nudging the board to keep him happy, convinced as he’s likely to be that Manchester United and Real Madrid won’t be too far off calling on his services if their current managers don’t hit the ground running? If the likes of Spurs, United and Arsenal can make their matches against us and City more competitive this year then we might have an even more thrilling title race than last time on our hands. Right now though, it feels like it might well be another two horse race.

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