While this is more than a little embarrassing to admit, last night I attended a One Direction concert at Gillette Stadium. I knew very little about the band, but begrudgingly agreed to go when nobody else volunteered to take the last ticket. And I have to say I was thoroughly underwhelmed. How those five guys ever become world famous is beyond me. Only a couple of them have any real vocal talent, and none of them are great musicians – it was shocking to find out only one of the five plays an instrument on stage – and when one of them is singing, the others just stand there. And it’s not like they can dance either. As they rapidly lose their boyish looks, I hope they disappear from the music scene. They really have no business selling out three straight nights at a giant stadium in one city. But nonetheless, it was an experience being at Gillette Stadium with a crowd that was 98% female.
Now back to important matters. There seems to be a never ending debate about the importance of the FA Community Shield. Some say winning it is the equivalent of any other trophy, and some say it’s a glorified preseason friendly that should only be used to build fitness. I tend to come out somewhere in the middle on this issue. I’ll break down why I think it matters and why I think it doesn’t.
It’s easy for fans of a lot of teams to say a trophy shouldn’t be won on just one game alone, especially before the season officially starts. But those people fail to understand that teams earn the opportunity to play in this game the year before. To make it into the match, a team needs to either win the FA Cup or the Premier League, and if they are the same team, then it’s the second place finisher in the league. So to get into the match, you need to have prolonged success the year before. You don’t get into this match without earning it. Being there means you did something right.
There is also a trophy at stake, and a real one at that. It’s not the Emirates Cup or the International Champions Cup. It’s a real trophy that’s been handed out for over 100 years. Any chance a team gets at a real trophy should be taken seriously, especially for teams that have not won an abundance of silverware over the last few years. Trophies bring happiness to a squad and they improve confidence levels. For Arsenal, winning a second trophy in a row could create a surge of momentum going into the new season. There is no downside to winning on Sunday.
Lastly, the match matters because it gives a lot of players another chance to play on the biggest stage at Wembley. The national stadium is a special place for players, and they all clearly love taking the field there. Not everyone got the chance to play there a year ago, so for many players, it could be their first action at Wembley. And the more experience they get playing with that pressure, the better they’ll do in future matches at the beautiful stadium.
But that could also be given as a reason why the game shouldn’t be taken so seriously. If the best XI won’t necessarily be playing for both teams, then can one really put any high level of importance on the match? Arsenal don’t even have all of their players back from summer vacation yet, and nobody is rushing back for this match alone. Young players could be given chances they wouldn’t otherwise get, so the atmosphere will be less tense. There is still room to experiment with squad selection in this match.
It also doesn’t matter because there are no consequences for losing this game in any way. There are no dropped points, as it is a one-time thing. There is no elimination from future rounds. And there shouldn’t even be a hit on morale going into the new season, as the players all know nobody is at their best yet.
In short, winning the FA Community Shield would be good for Arsenal in a lot of ways. It would be another trophy to add to the cabinet, giving the players a confidence boost, and it would be a great start to the season. But losing the match would be like losing a friendly. They could forget about it the very next day as they welcome the Germans back to training, with attention quickly turning to the Premier League opener a week later.
The match is more than a friendly. But winning the trophy is certainly not on par with winning the league or even the Capital One Cup. For us fans who’ve been dying for action, it’s a great way to kick off the season a week early. But if things don’t go the right way, we can all quickly forget it ever happened as we prepare for the real opener.