In what is known as the proverbial curtain-raiser for the season, FA Cup winners Arsenal faced Premier League champions Liverpool at Wembley for the 2020-21 Community Shield title.
The Gunners might have felt that this game arrived too early in their pre-season. That was because Mikel Arteta said in his press conference that Arsenal only had two training sessions before this game. The Premier League champions, on the other hand, were in training for a few weeks and had already played three pre-season friendlies.
As expected, the match started in sluggish fashion, with both teams looking to find their rhythm in the match. Surprisingly, it was Arsenal who made the better start as Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang opened the scoring in emphatic fashion 12 minutes into the game.
Thereafter, a few end to end moments eventually morphed into sustained Liverpool pressure as the Reds kept the Gunners penned in their box in the second half. That pressure finally yielded dividends when subsitute Takumi Minamino restored parity by slotting the ball home with 17 minutes to go.
The two sides stayed level till full-time, taking the match to a nerve-wracking penalty shootout finale. As it turned out, Rhian Brewster’s missed penalty was the only difference between the two teams as Arsenal produced a perfect set of five successful spotkicks to celebrate another successful day at Wembley.
On that note, let us have a look at five talking points from Arsenal's penalty-shootout win against Liverpool in the first game of the 2020-21 English season.
Five talking points in Arsenal's win over Liverpool in the 2020-21 Community Shield:
#5: Rob Holding in the shop window
Up against a pacey and tricky Sadio Mane, Rob Holding held his own physically. In a hardworking display, the Arsenal centre-back made seven clearances and two interceptions. He also won four aerial and two ground duels and wasn’t dribbled past once.
Earlier in the day, there were reports that Rob Holding could be moving to Newcastle on a season-long loan. It was apparently an effort by Arsenal to clear out the plethora of centre-backs in their squad ahead of Gabriel Magalhaes’ imminent arrival.
The 24-year-old Rob Holding’s Arsenal career seemed to be over before this game. But after his energetic display against Liverpool, Holding might have showed the Arsenal boss that he may still have a future at the club.
#4: Liverpool’s front-three have an off day
We’re so used to seeing Liverpool score a plethora of goals that when they don’t, it feels strange. Against a resolute and organised Arsenal back-five, the Reds struggled in the final-third.
In fact, for large swathes of the game, Liverpool were passing the ball around their back-four in a u-shape. That allowed Arsenal to form a low-block, leaving limited space for Liverpool’s lethal front-three to operate in.
Among the Liverpool attackers, it was only Sadio Mane who could conjure a clear goal-scoring opportunity; however, Emi Martinez quickly thwarted the effort.
Between the three of them, Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino only mustered two shots (both off target) and lost possession 32 times throughout the 90 minutes. It was undoubtedly a bad day for Liverpool's Fab 3, but it marked the second time that Arsenal managed to nullify their threat in successive games.