Pre-season friendlies have often been described as “phoney” by managers and players alike. Multiple substitutions, weakened sides, lack of competitiveness and if you’re lucky in Britain, cricket weather that dulls the pace. Why do people bother turning up for these games? Are they so desperate for football, especially in a summer that has included Euro 2012 and the Olympics?
So we come to the annual phoney war that is the FA Community Shield. In old money, that’s the FA Charity Shield. It used to be a half decent occasion, but now it invariably disappoints.
Do we really need this so-called “curtain raiser”? I don’t think so. On the plus side, money does get raised for charity, but that could easily be remedied with all the cash sloshing around the game these days. There’s no doubt it is a showpiece occasion, a sort of Super Cup, but the quality of football is tepid, the tickets are overpriced and the big clubs go through a little sparring without really loading their guns. Why pay so much to see a training exercise?
This year, it’s Chelsea v Manchester City, which – on paper – is an appetizing fixture, but don’t expect a classic. Chelsea will have their cluster of new signings on display – well, at least that’s what their fans will hope, and City, who have yet to buy this summer, will want to ensure they don’t get beaten in their first “competitive” game since winning the title.
Chelsea’s close season retail therapy has seen them spend more than £60million on players like Eden Hazard, Marco Marin and Oscar, and there’s sure to be a couple more new men before the campaign proper gets underway – the Champions League triumph should not be allowed to disguise that Chelsea’s squad was tired and out-of-form. Victor Moses of Wigan and the much sought-after Hulk of Porto remain on the shopping list.
City were favourites to add Robin van Persie to their star-studded ranks and have eyed Liverpool’s Dan Agger throughout the summer, but they have not got the gold-plated chequebook out yet.
Whoever lines up for both sides, don’t expect a blood and thunder 90 minutes. “Gentle posturing” is the most likely outcome, with neither side really prepared to show all their cards. It certainly will not be value for money.