Be careful what you wish for Arsenal, you just might get it from Chelsea in the long run
Will Jose Mourinho's first loss to Arsenal spur him on to make amends?
A 24th-minute strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was enough to see Arsenal win the Community Shield for a second consecutive season, and while the result wasn't as surprising as last season's 3-0 thrashing of Manchester City, it's still a momentous one for Arsenal. As we all know, Arsène Wenger hadn't beaten Chelsea under Jose Mourinho in thirteen previous outings.
A season ago, after that stirring win over City, we took four points from two matches against them, including a convincing 0-2 win at the Etihad. Could this win over Chelsea unlock a similar change in our fortunes? Last season, we managed just one point against them. The confidence we've earned going forward could be incalculable. Then again, while we've won the Community Shield, we have to wonder, have we slain a giant or awoken one?
Despite defeating Manchester City in last season's Community Shield, drawing at home and then winning at the Etihad, after all, we still finished behind them. We won at Old Trafford for the first time since 2006 but still sweated out a third place finish that depended just as much on their swoon (just one win in their last six matches) as it did on anything we accomplished.
Wenger’s tactical nous finally helps Arsenal beat Mourinho’s Chelsea
So we've beaten Mourinho, finally. Setting aside the Community Shield's status, this was a dramatic win. No manager has held us so deeply in thrall as has Mourinho. We've slain the demon that is his hold over us. It's one thing to win 5-3. André Villas-Boas was in charge, after all. It's quite another to win 1-0 after that streak of thirteen matches stretching back to 2004, Mourinho's first spell at the club. The hoodoo has had its heyday, it seems.
Then again, there's a part of me that feels a bit like Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who may or may not have said, "I fear we have awoken a sleeping giant," after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour. Yes, Arsenal won this battle, but what of the larger war that looms?
Having finally lost to Arsène, it's unlikely that Mourinho will take the setback with equanimity. No longer can he boast of having bested the best manager in the EPL. While they're hardly on equal footing, gone are the days when Mourinho could make snide remarks or deride his rival. He's been bested, ironically, because Wenger showed greater tactical nous.
Even Mourinho admitted in the post-match interview that, on this day, Arsenal "play with a very low block, they defend with ten men, they put everybody in front of their own line with very good organisation". Our defence was much more organized than it's been.
That might be down to Wenger's insistence that we play more conservatively and hit on counters – as we did at the Etihad – or it might reflect the influence of Petr Cech and his command over the defenders in front of him. Either explanation lays waste to the idea that Mourinho is the shrewder manager on match-day or beyond, respectively.
Will this defeat spur Mourinho to make amends?
In either case, though, I wonder and worry. Will this result signify a greater confidence for Arsenal going forward, or will it motivate Mourinho to marshall his resources, by which I mean, will he insist on even more signings to sate his insecurities? Loic "what's the offside rule" Remy clearly wasn't enough of a threat, and Radamel "don't touch my hair" Falcao wasn't much better. If it weren't for Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard going to ground at the slightest of touches, Chelsea wouldn't have had many chances at all.
For as much as I enjoyed the result, I do worry about the ramifications. Two years ago, Mourinho apparently scuttled our pursuit of Demba Ba, reasoning that he and Ozil would prove too lethal to his own club's ambitions. He then sold Juan Mata to Manchester United to meddle even further.
Last year, his squad sprinted out to an apparently insurmountable lead only to be reeled back in ever so slowly. This summer, he's already complained about Arsenal's spending and has now lost to Arsenal for the first time in his life. Surely, he won't stand idly by and watch as we secure the services of Cech while his own best move to date has been to loan in Falcao.
Yes, Arsenal have won this round. What domino-effect have we unleashed, though? There are still four weeks left in the transfer market. I could see Chelsea moving for another player or two under the threat that Arsenal now poses to Mourinho's hegemony. Up until the Community Shield, that threat was largely hypothetical because no Arsenal squad had ever defeated Mourinho. Now, that threat is very real.
How Mourinho responds between now and the close the of the transfer window on 1 September, and how he responds over the course of the season, including 19 September when Arsenal invade Stamford Bridge, will tell us all a lot more about how the EPL season as a whole will play out.