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05th Aug 2018

Manchester City send ominous message to rivals with Community Shield domination

Manchester City superiority over their rivals shows no sign of easing up, based on today's evidence

Reuben Pinder

The Community Shield is a strange fixture

The competitiveness of this domestic season opener is often decided by circumstance. How much does a manager have to prove? How many players are missing? Much like the League Cup, if you win it, it’s a trophy, if you lose, it doesn’t matter.

This afternoon’s fixture lay somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, as both teams wanted to start their campaign with a win in the season’s inaugural event, but both coaches were willing to field youth players and offer them a taste of the big occasion.

It was a dress rehearsal for the genuinely big games to come for both Chelsea and Manchester City, and the Premier League champions looked the much superior side. That is to be expected, given the fact they have the advantage of two more years’ practice honing their style than this Chelsea team. Maurizio Sarri’s side may get there eventually, but today showed that they have a long way to go.

All eyes were on Jorginho, the man touted as the magician who would facilitate Chelsea playing Sarriball from day one. He was impressive at times, but at others looked overwhelmed by the intensity with which City pressed and found himself without a way out on more than one occasion.

As clichéd as it may sound, the Italy international may take time to adapt, not necessarily physically, but mentally and to the intensity with which even the supposedly weaker teams will shut him down. Few however will do so as relentlessly as City.

He was not helped by his midfield partners, Cesc Fàbregas and Ross Barkley, who may improve throughout the season but looked sluggish and sloppy with the ball, despite both having just come off the back of a free summer.

Álvaro Morata looked rusty too. His number change unsurprisingly doesn’t appear to have made much of a difference to his performance levels but fans will be hoping Sarri’s vote of confidence inspires a much needed upturn in form.

There were promising signs for Chelsea though, mainly the encouraging performance from Callum Hudson-Odoi. It’s hard to believe the winger is only 17 when he dribbles with such composure.

Fans will be pleased to hear that the teenager is in Sarri’s plans for the season, as opposed to shipping him off on a flight to Arnhem.

Pep Guardiola also took the chance to give Phil Foden a start, and was vindicated by a composed performance from the midfielder, who looks more than ready to step in when called upon.

John Stones was given minutes in a more advanced holding midfield role too, as Guardiola prepares for the inevitability of having to rest Fernandinho more this season, after missing out on Jorginho. The England international took to the role like a duck to water, spraying passes across the pitch with confidence, safe in the knowledge that Vincent Kompany was there to mop up if needed.

City were comprehensive winners and their dominance has cast a harsh light on the work that needs to be done at Stamford Bridge, but there was a glimpse of what the future may hold for both teams, as World Cup winners Hudson-Odoi and Foden demonstrated why their managers have put faith in their ability.

The future is one thing however and the present is another altogether. The latter belongs to Manchester City, and unless their Premier League rivals step up a level (or two, or three), this performance suggests that the former soon will too.