Premier League champions, Chelsea face Arsenal in the Community Shield on Sunday, with the focus on both teams being how best to put a turbulent offseason behind them.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has not had a successful transfer period yet and has, indeed battling to keep hold of Alexis Sanchez as the Gunners attempt to return to the Champions League after missing out on qualification for the first time in 20 years.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, on the other hand, is desperate to increase the size of his “small squad” as the Blues prepare to defend their Premier League title.
“The strength of professional people is to not be diverted by noises that are not their problem,” Wenger said Thursday..
Despite signing France striker Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon in July for a club record $68 million, Arsenal has chosen to keep Sanchez for the final year of his contract. That risks the possibility of losing the 28-year-old star on a free transfer at the end of the season.
Chelsea has signed striker Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid, midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco and defender Antonio Rudiger from Roma during the offseason, but those arrivals have been offset by the departures of Nemanja Matic and John Terry. Also, Diego Costa is no longer wanted by Conte.
There have been reports of unrest between Conte and the Chelsea hierarchy over transfer policy, which were further fueled in July when the former Italy manager received a salary increase but did not extend his contract, which expires in 2019.
Past Community Shield matches have often lacked genuine competitiveness, but the shared summer of discontent and a fierce London rivalry should guarantee entertainment on Sunday.
“I think friendly games have ended for us,” Conte said. “This is an official game, this is the first trophy in the season.”