The Community Shield Is A Chance For Liverpool To Lay A Marker

In past weeks, I have written about the pointlessness of investing any time or emotions into pre-season friendlies. The 5-0 win over RB Leipzig is as irrelevant to what we’ll actually look like at the start of the season as the 4-0 loss to Manchester United was. This is a period of time when Jürgen Klopp and his backroom staff get the players up to fitness, as well as learn about how different formations and styles of play will look during the forthcoming campaign. Liverpool have won the majority of matches in previous pre-seasons and then had an appalling year, just as they lost a number of times in the summer before we went on to win the title. In other words, reading too much into pre-season matches will make you go crazy. The one exception to that rule, as far as I’m concerned at least, is the Community Shield. The Reds are taking on Manchester City on Saturday and will be presented with an opportunity to lay down a marker for the season to come. At the very least, it will be a chance to show Pep Guardiola that we haven’t gone anywhere.

If we’re all honest, everyone expects City to run away with the title again this year. The signing of Erling Haaland has been seen as the missing piece in Guardiola’s puzzle as far as the Champions League is concerned, with the club’s cheerleaders bizarrely claiming that they haven’t had a striker for the past few years, as though Gabriel Jesus was a defender they put up front every now and then. The sales that have either already taken place or are being rumoured will have an impact on Manchester City to some extent, though it’s difficult to see them refusing to replace the likes of Raheem Sterling before the window ‘slams shut’. Regardless, the feeling across the Premier League is that City will win the title again, which no one seems to care about because it’s the sports-washing operation that are doing it rather than the well-run club. Other teams can’t have sports-washing owners but they could be well-run, so it works for everyone else to have City win and shrug their shoulders rather than us and some internal reflection.

The Community Shield Really Matters

The Community Shield is a chance to get a win on the board and a trophy in the cabinet before other teams have kicked a ball in anger. It is a glorified friendly and it is important to judge it as so, yet the fact is that it is a match against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who we will once again have to get the better of if we’re hoping to win the Premier League title. As with other recent seasons, this will be one of fine margins and it could well be that our games against Sports-wash FC are the ones that make the difference. Though we didn’t lose to City last season, we didn’t beat them either and if we had have done then we’d have won the title. We need to get in Guardiola’s head as soon as possible, which the Community Shield allows us to do. Whether it be the excitement of Luis Diaz, the power of Darwin Núñez or the youthful exuberance of Fábio Carvalho, there are a few things that the Spaniard won’t quite know how his team are going to cope with when we go up against them at the King Power Stadium at the weekend.

On the one hand, Liverpool could win the Community Shield 10-0 on Saturday and it wouldn’t really matter. Yet on the other, it is a chance for the Reds to give Guardiola something to overthink ahead of any league or Champions League meetings between us. We all know that Guardiola loves to overthink things, so imagine how much he’d be panicking about Núñez next time we face them if he scores a hat-trick against them at the weekend? Equally, picture a world in which Virgil van Dijk doesn’t give Haaland a sniff and the panic that might set in for the Spaniard when the two next go up against one another. The Community Shield isn’t silverware in any meaningful way, which is what made it so laughable when City tried to claim it as part of their quadruple when they got knocked out of the Champions League the other year. Yet it is a match in which we’ll face our biggest rival of the modern era and be faced with a chance to beat them and prove that we aren’t going to let them have it all their own way again this year, even if every other team is.

The Community Shield Really Doesn’t Matter

For all that this weekend provides Jürgen Klopp and his players with an opportunity to put a marker down for the forthcoming campaign, the reality is that we’ve got a game against Strasbourg lined up for the following evening. In other words, the manager isn’t giving the match an overblown sense of importance and is treating it like any other pre-season friendly. He knows that it isn’t important in the grand scheme of things, as demonstrated by the fact that we lost on penalties to Manchester City in the Community Shield in 2019 before going on to finish 18 points clear of them that season, winning the title for the first time in the Premier League era. The following year, we lost on penalties to Arsenal in the Community Shield and then finished eight points clear of them in the league. Though it is a chance to see what sort of shape the team is in ahead of the season proper, it in no way reflects the performances that we’re likely to see once the campaign gets underway. Whatever the result, it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t all want the Reds to win, of course. I want Liverpool to win every single match that they play and I don’t want the sports-washing club from along the M58 to win so much as a raffle. The point is, though, that the result won’t really tell us much about anything. Whilst it’s a chance for us to get into the head of Pep Guardiola, there’s no question that the Spaniard will be thinking of it as the same sort of opportunity in reverse. If Liverpool can’t cope with the new-look Manchester City, with Erling Haaland at the forefront, what hope have other teams in the Premier League got? West Ham, Bournemouth, Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest all face City within their first five games of the season and none of them will be excited about facing them if we can’t get anything from them. That won’t be in Jürgen Klopp’s thoughts, however. The manager is only interested in what he can learn about his team and the fitness that he can get into their legs ahead of the forthcoming season. Nothing else matters.

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