Man City ease to Community Shield victory over work-in-progress Chelsea
LONDON -- Three points from Man City's comfortable 2-0 win over Chelsea in the Community Shield.
1. Man City cruise to easy victory
Ultimately, Sunday's victory wasn't a massive shock, as it was expected that last season's Premier League champions, with a settled squad and genius of a manager, would easily beat a side who started preseason training with the old coach in charge and have thus barely had time to get used to their new manager, Maurizio Sarri.
Still, Manchester City's amble to a 2-0 win over Chelsea in the Community Shield, a result gained with the baking sun beating mercilessly down, was alarmingly easy.
Naturally, we should offer the requisite caveats: This is a friendly, and neither side was at full strength, with a few World Cup veterans still to fully return from their summer exertions in Russia. This was Sarri's first game in charge of Chelsea, while Pep Guardiola is starting his third season. But thanks to a brace from Sergio Aguero, City will have seen no reason to be concerned by Chelsea as they defend their title.
The absence of a few big names gave both teams an interesting look, with youngsters Phil Foden and Callum Hudson-Odoi picked for City and Chelsea respectively. Riyad Mahrez made his debut for Pep Guardiola's side, while Jorginho got a spicy reception from the City fans after choosing Chelsea over them this summer.
Man City took the lead in the 13th minute through a combination of terrific build-up play -- a pass from the back by Aymeric Laporte and a driving run from Foden -- and incredibly lax Chelsea defending as they simply watched the attack unfold. Aguero was given as much time as he needed to hit low into the bottom corner, his 200th goal for the club.
Guardiola's side continued to dominate and not long after half-time, Aguero should have doubled the lead, skipping around keeper Willy Caballero from a terrific Foden pass only to shank his shot wide of a semi-open goal. A few minutes later he did score again, this time played through by Bernardo Silva and easily giving David Luiz the slip before firing low into the net.
Chelsea will need time to adjust to Sarri's methods and formations, so we should not criticise them too harshly. But if this game is anything to go by, the Italian has a lot of work to do.
2. Mahrez shows why Man City signed him
Manchester City's pursuit of Mahrez, at least a year or so in the making, might have looked like an excessive or vanity purchase, a man with nine Ferraris buying a Porsche. But as daft as it might sound, City's attacking options last season were a little thin.
Mahrez might be the best reserve in the Premier League this season but almost as important as giving Guardiola another winger to help out Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, his presence could allow a couple of other players to play in the middle.
Foden and Silva started this game in the positions usually occupied by Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, men who won't be shifting from the starting line-up. But on the basis of this game, Guardiola won't be nervous in the slightest about picking either of his second-string No.8s.
Foden, the young Englishman from whom so much is expected, looks the real deal but perhaps more important over his immediate progress, he's exactly the sort of player Guardiola loves. Indeed, he's apparently known by some of the City squad as "Pep's lad" and by the coaching staff as the "Stockport Iniesta."
Let's not get too giddy yet; we have been burned by promising young Englishmen before, particularly creative midfielders who look destined for the top only to not fulfil their promise. But the 18-year-old was arguably the sparkiest player on the Wembley pitch, setting up Aguero's first with a terrific run and pass, only denied at least one assist by some uncharacteristically wayward finishing.
Had Mahrez not been signed, and if Foden and Bernardo were to play, then they might have been forced to fill-in on the flanks. But after the recruitment of the Algeria international, the chances are that both will get more time in the middle. And that can only be a good thing.
3. Chelsea need more from Barkley
Whenever Sarri has been asked about transfers this summer, he has not pointed to areas of Chelsea's defence, which could need additions more used to a back four. He has yet to highlight a relative dearth in attacking depth or wonder if a replacement for Alvaro Morata might be required. Instead he said midfield is the place he'd like to recruit, "maybe a midfielder with different characteristics." After watching Ross Barkley play at Wembley, you can see his point.
With N'Golo Kante to return, Cesc Fabregas still around and Ruben Loftus-Cheek not yet ready, Barkley is unlikely to be a first choice in Sarri's team this season, which makes Barkley's performance on Sunday even more curious.
For City's first goal, Barkley failed to track Foden's run and then when Aguero got the ball on the edge of the area, he not only failed to press him but stopped and watched one of the best strikers ever to play in England line up his shot and fire into the corner of the net.
The rest of his performance wasn't much better, showing little of the dynamism and thrilling physicality that his early days at Everton promised. You would think that with a new manager to impress, places in a team to be won and fresh after a summer off, a player like Barkley would be keen to impress. Maybe he was keen, but that didn't show in how he played.
The Community Shield is not a place to draw firm conclusions but it might be a game where fears are confirmed. If Sarri thought he needed another midfield option before, he knows it now.