Man City beats Chelsea in a Community Shield that taught us very little

Yahoo Sports
Bernardo Silva was the standout player for Manchester City in Sunday’s Community Shield victory over Chelsea. (Getty)
Bernardo Silva was the standout player for Manchester City in Sunday’s Community Shield victory over Chelsea. (Getty)

If Sunday’s Community Shield was any indication, the 2018-19 Premier League season could look a lot like the 2017-18 one. Manchester City sliced through Chelsea to the type of comprehensive victory that took it 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League a year ago.

But the Community Shield probably wasn’t any indication. After all, it rarely is. Arsenal had won three of the previous four. This year, it was rendered even less relevant by the World Cup, and by English football executives, who insisted on starting the Premier League less than a month after Russia 2018 wrapped up.

Scroll to continue with content

So when City, the champions, and Chelsea, the FA Cup holders, took to Wembley Stadium on Sunday, they were without at least a half-dozen first-choice starters and a dozen first-team regulars. Teenagers Phil Foden and Callum Hudson-Odoi started. Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard didn’t feature at all.

A gorgeous London afternoon, therefore, all felt a bit inconsequential. City won on two goals from Sergio Aguero. The Premier League favorites were far and away the better side.

But the gap in quality stemmed directly from World Cup-related absences, and from the fact that, well, it’s still preseason.

Below are some takeaways. Because there were some. But consider all of them alongside the caveat that this was not a Premier League game. Neither side was the finished product. Far from it.

Chelsea’s midfield was woeful – but of course it was

Chelsea’s midfield three of Jorginho, Cesc Fabregas and Ross Barkley was culpable on both City goals. On the first, Barkley and Jorginho waltzed back nonchalantly as Foden sped by them. Fabregas was nowhere to be found.

On the second, the deficiency was even more glaring. Hudson-Odoi gave the ball away at the top of the midfield third, and it was suddenly overrun by sky blue. Jorginho was basically left 5-v-1 on the break. In other words, he was helpless.

Analysis of Chelsea’s performance begins and ends with its lack of a ball-winner in midfield. But when Chelsea is at full strength, of course, that won’t be an issue. It will have two ball-winners, in fact: N’Golo and Kante.

It’s tempting to worry about Chelsea in year one under Maurizio Sarri after seeing Barkley and Fabregas get shredded. But the takeaway isn’t that the Blues will struggle in the center of the park; it’s simply that those two probably won’t figure prominently, if at all, in Sarri’s plans. Jorginho should look like a different player with Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek – or another new signing – around him.

Oh, and by the way, Sarri has had less than a month to work with his new players. Comfort, familiarity and more advanced tactics will come with time.

Bernardo Silva already looks like a David Silva heir

Bernardo Silva was the best player on the field Sunday. And his performance was especially intriguing because it came from a central position.

With De Bruyne and David Silva occupying those central roles last year, Bernardo was shunted out to the right wing. It wasn’t an unnatural spot for him. It was similar to the one in which he starred at Monaco. But Guardiola has always seen him as a potential “free 8,” the position the Spanish coach moved De Bruyne into upon arriving at City two summers ago. This could be the transitional season.

In a way, the signing of Riyad Mahrez hinted at Bernardo’s positional shift. Both Mahrez and Raheem Sterling prefer the right wing. City’s biggest need – if it has one – is in the middle, where David Silva is 32 and inching toward decline. At some point, there’ll be a changing of the guard at the Etihad, and it could be one Silva succeeding the other. Heck, it could happen sometime over the next nine months.

Phil Foden was impressive

Another “David Silva heir” option is Foden, who put in 75 promising minutes at Wembley. A slick outside-of-the-foot through-ball to Aguero should have been rewarded with an assist.

At 18, he’s one of the top prospects in England. But there are still so many impediments to playing time, so a loan spell might have to bridge the gap from “exciting youngster” to “Man City first-team fixture.”

The Prem could take a while to get up to speed

On City’s side, Ederson, David Silva, De Bruyne, Fabian Delph and Sterling weren’t involved at all. Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus came off the bench.

In darker blue, Thibaut Courtois, Gary Cahill, Kante, Loftus-Cheek, Hazard, Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud were out of the frame. Willian was only fit for a second-half cameo.

In related news, the Premier League season starts in five days. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Either players are going to suffer because they rush back from vacations; or, more likely, the league, and the quality of the soccer, is going to suffer because many of its top players are either half-fit or absent.

Something has to be done to prevent players from being overworked. The Premier League and the FA are doing whatever the opposite of that something is. Don’t be surprised if the league doesn’t open at its full-bore best next weekend.

– – – – – – –

Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

What to read next