The Community Shield is a serious game if victorious, but a friendly in defeat.
Apt name for a trophy in an empty stadium protecting the public.
This win after a penalty shoot-out builds on the advances this year, further cements the changes and creates the winning habit.
A surprise was Elneny into midfield and Martinez in goal, not quarantining as some media reported, and no Lacazette in the squad. Four of the starting eleven – Martinez, Holding, Maitland Niles and Elneny had been linked with transfers away, making departures more painful given the level of performance. Arteta employed the hybrid wing back formation, with five at the back when Liverpool attacked and four or five on the rapid counter.
The Merseysiders looked near full strength apart from Alexander Arnold and Henderson. They were also ahead in training by one week and a couple more games – and remember, finished 43 points ahead of Arsenal in the league.
Liverpool attacked from the off, after all Intensity their identity.
Robertson ran and crossed from the left, a foretaste of what was to come. Tierney cleared.
A free kick from Robertson saw Van Dijk offside. Arsenal’s defence was in a line- the new set piece coach would be pleased.
Williams crossed from the right, following a Luiz mistake but Milner headed over.
Elneny took a pass out from the back breaking the high press and sent it to Bellerin who drove it forward to Saka who sent it accurately across the field to Aubameyang who cut inside Williams onto his right with Tierney making runs on his left, and Maitland Niles underlapping and fired into the corner.
Arsenal broke again, Saka crossed and Nketiah fired straight at Allison. Soon after the 18-year-old set him up again – but fired over, and then Maitland Niles created a chance for him, but it came to nothing.
Robertson sent in another good cross in, but Salah was on his heels.
Luiz passed it straight out to a Liverpool player – the third time. And with Arsenal defending resiliently, Bellerin had to clear another dangerous cross.
Before the break, Robertson had time to send in another good cross from the left – but this time Mane was on his heels.
Liverpool speeded things up in the second. Milner crunched into Elneny.
Firmino let fly but was half a yard wide.
Mane got the better of Holding – with a one on one – and Martinez saved well.
Milner came in with another tackle on Nketiah and got a yellow. And goes off for Keita. Minamino came on and Soares came on for Bellerin on 58.
Arsenal went back in their shell – with counter attacks petering out a bit.
Maitland Niles was defending superbly and beat Mane for pace in one Liverpool attack – throwing up the question why Arsenal are letting him go?
Minamino had a shot but Martinez saved.
The ball bounced around in the Arsenal area and ran off Salah via Soares to Minamino who fired past Martinez.
Arsenal appeared to be running out of energy.
Martinez saved from Mane again with a one on one.
Willock, Nelson and Kolasinac came on for Nketiah, Saka and Tierney – which created much needed energy. And in the last ten Arsenal were the most likely winners.
A Cedric cross saw Willock get between Gomez and Van Dijk and could have won it with an accurate header – but it was wide.
Willock and Maitland Niles continued the threat down the right sending in crosses, until the final whistle and penalties.
Nelson, Maitland Niles, Cedric, Luiz and Aubameyang all hit the target, but Brewster, sent on in injury time, as a penalty specialist hit the bar with the ball sailing over.
Aubameyang said: “I feel very good. We deserved a win. This time I won’t drop it.”
On the goal, he said: “Bukayo gave me ball, I chose my right foot and shot.”
Although non-commital about that contract, he said: “We are improving – I’m happy and excited to be an Arsenal player.”
Ainsley Maitland Niles who was called up into the England squad said: “It is the first time I have played on my birthday – a fantastic feeling. We proved something – we want to keep it going this season.
On any potential transfer: “I am an Arsenal player until told otherwise. My heart is with the club.”
Mikel Arteta said: “I am so happy. We knew the challenge. David trained only one day.
“I admire the courage of team. We were aggressive without the ball and we created some issues for them in back line. Boys had a lot of courage. In the last ten minutes we dominated and created two chances. Winning creates a good atmosphere.”
On Aubameyang: “He responds to pressure. He is a big game player.”
On potential transfers: “I am happy with the squad – my job is to make them better. Winning generates belief – and competing with teams like this, as well.”
Jurgen Klopp: “They had two chances at the goal. We had to play against a low block with a big counter-attack threat. We should have created more. We had the ball a lot. They are strong in the counter-attack. We deserved the equalizer. The penalty shoot-out is a lottery.
“A lot of things were good. A lot of teams play like this. Needed to be fresh in the final third. Couldn’t create enough chances. Today – it was not enough.”
Arsenal: Martínez, Holding, David Luiz, Tierney, Bellerín, Elneny, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles, Saka, Nketiah, Aubameyang: Substitutes Leno, Saliba, Cédric Soares, Nelson, Willock, Kolasinac, Smith Rowe, John-Jules, Olayinka
Liverpool: Alisson, Williams, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Milner, Salah, Firmino, Mané: Substitutes Keita, Adrián, Grujic, Jones, Minamino, Tsimikas, Brewster, Elliott, Koumetio
Referee: Andre Marriner