It’s always difficult to analyze the Community Shield because it lies in the grey area between “meaningful match” and “friendly.” We’ll exercise caution and lean more towards “friendly” and approach this with the understanding that it doesn’t mean all that much, but this match was entertaining and chippy so the players didn’t exactly blow it off and sleepwalk through the proceedings.
It’s hard to draw many conclusions since a) it was the Community Shield and b) Ivanovic’s red card left Chelsea to play with 10 men for more than half the match. They were vastly outplayed for most of the second half, but certainly held their own and went to the locker room with a 1-0 halftime lead.
There is one observation to make about the front three attackers. Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are both 5’7”. Fernando Torres is 6’0” but the book on him since he entered the league has been to play him physical. He wants to avoid contact as much as possible and gets frustrated and taken out of his game when he’s getting knocked to the ground. Man City certainly took that approach, including a body check from Vincent Kompany that would have made Chris Chelios proud. Given that they play in the most physical major league in the world, it’s hard to imagine that the lack of physical presence up front isn’t going to be problematic. Torres is going to have to keep his head on a swivel and Didier Drogba’s imposing physical presence will be sorely missed at some points this season.
Fernando Torres – He put perfect touch on the ball for his goal and he’s definitely getting his goal scoring confidence back. There’s every reason to think he’s going to have a bounce back year.
Eden Hazard – Maybe we’ve been a little too optimistic about his outlook for this season, but only slightly. He’s going to be in on a lot of the attacking action, but he may not even have the edge over Mata right now.
Ramires – Considering his price tag is much easier to stomach than the cost associated with his most of his teammates and Chelsea open with a double Game Week, it’s going to be tough to keep Ramires out of fantasy lineups. He was involved throughout the day and created the opening goal. (Mata got the assist because he deflected it to Torres, but Ramires did the heavy lifting.)
Branislav Ivanovic –
His straight red makes Roberto Di Matteo’s starting lineup decisions that much easier. Ivanovic will be suspended three matches. He has no chance of winning an appeal on his studs-up challenge against Kolarov. Get him out of lineups and off fantasy rosters. Rely instead and John Terry, Ashley Cole, David Luiz, or Gary Cahill for the opening fixtures.
Update: So much for that. The FA has ruled the Community Shield is not a “first-team” match and Ivanovic will not be suspended for league matches. He looks like he’s going to be a regular starter and solid fantasy option. With a double game week to start off the season, that’s a complete 180 on the recommendation. He looks like a strong play this weekend.
David Luiz – Just remember that Luiz doesn’t come without risk. He had a trademark brain cramp and was lucky to dodge a penalty after pushing Tevez in the box, recklessly trying to kick the ball out from under Tevez after he pushed him down, and then shoving Tevez again for good measure after he got back on his feet. It’s hard to imagine Roberto Di Matteo having enough confidence in Luiz to start him over Cahill.
The defending league champions started a little slow but certainly hit their stride during the second half, albeit against 10 men. Joe Hart’s exclusion from the lineup was costly as backup Costel Pantilimon was at fault on Chelsea’s second goal and is the only reason the outcome was still somewhat at stake until the final whistle.
Pablo Zabaleta, Stefan Savic, and Aleksandar Kolarov all started alongside Vincent Kompany. None of those three players are necessarily expected to get a lot of playing time but it will be interesting to see how things play out early with Micah Richards sidelined for a few weeks. Gael Clichy played the second half and of course Joleon Lescott will be on the pitch, but if either Zabaleta or Kolarov fill the fourth slot there’s considerable fantasy value there. (Savic is a long shot, and this all assumes Mancini is sticking with a formation that starts with the number ‘4’).
Carlos Tevez – We completely blew off Tevez in our pre-season rankings and we might already be regretting that. Not only did Tevez form a two-headed attack with Aguero, he scored a goal and came close on a couple of others. City has been criticized for not doing enough in this transfer window, but if Tevez is back in form with his head in the game that’s the equivalent of a major signing that will really boost the attack. It isn’t like he is cheap in fantasy games so wait-and-see, but Tevez might be back.
Sergio Aguero – Last year’s hero missed an absolute sitter late in the match that would have put the game away, but it’s going to take more than that to derail his confidence. He made noise up front all day and should contend for the league lead in goals.
Mario Balotelli – The Carlos Tevez sighting hurts Balotelli’s value, but he should still have his moments as a sub. Chances are he’ll get red hot for a stretch or two so be patient. Even not being dressed for the game, Balotelli found ways to entertain the crowd. He was surrounded by an entourage that looked like they were dragged straight out of closing time at a pub the night before, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if that proved to be true.
Samir Nasri – We did predict Nasri to improve on last year’s numbers and his performance did nothing to change that opinion. He scored a nice goal and looked dangerous in an attacking role until he was subbed out for David Silva. Of course the fact that Silva and Nasri weren’t on the pitch at the same time is significant, but the formal Arsenal player looked solid.
Yaya Toure – It’s hard to imagine he’ll score as many goals as he did last year, until considering he seems to score a clutch goal whenever the team really needs one in a meaningful match. He came through again with the equalizer against Chelsea.