Here we go again! Thirty-three days after the 2019-20 season ended, and just six days after the Champions League final, English football returns on Saturday with Premier League champions Liverpool facing FA Cup winners Arsenal in the FA Community Shield at Wembley (stream LIVE on ESPN+ at 11:30 a.m. ET in the U.S.).
The clash between the champions and cup winners has been the traditional curtain-raiser to the season in England since it was first staged in 1908. To some, it is no more than a glamorous preseason friendly which tells us little about the season ahead, but for others it is regarded as a trophy worth winning and an opportunity to land an early psychological blow on rivals for the title.
Saturday’s game offers Liverpool the chance to take their haul of silverware to five trophies since winning the Champions League in June 2019, while Arsenal can consolidate their resurgence under Mikel Arteta after beating Chelsea just over a month ago to claim a record-extending 14th FA Cup.
But the Community Shield is more than a mere curtain-raiser — Saturday will be another chapter in its long, sometimes quirky, history.
What’s the deal with the weird name?
It began as the Sheriff of London Charity Shield in 1898, with a game between professionals and amateurs, but it became the FA Charity Shield in 1908 when Football League champions Manchester United played Southern League winners Queens Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge.
The ‘charity’ element of the name was due to a percentage of gate receipts being donated to good causes. It was known as the Charity Shield until 2002, when it was rebranded as the Community Shield by the English Football Association in order to cover a wider scope of beneficiaries. Charities and good causes continue to benefit from the game, with the FA also using it as a vehicle to boost grassroots football.
How do they select the teams to play in it?
Pretty simple really. Since the game became a regular Wembley occasion in 1974, it has been the league champions versus the FA Cup winners, but there have been exceptions in recent years.
If a team achieves the Premier League and FA Cup double, then they will face the league runners-up. The obvious solution in that scenario would seemingly be for the double winners to face the Carabao Cup winners, but that competition is run by the EFL rather than the FA, so the Carabao Cup winners don’t get an invite.
When Arsenal did the double in 1971, they turned down an appearance in the then-Charity Shield in favour of playing lucrative friendlies in Europe, so FA Cup runners-up Liverpool faced Second Division champions Leicester City instead.
So is it a major trophy or just a glamorous friendly?
The game is classed as a non-competitive fixture by the FA, so it’s a tough sell to suggest it is a major trophy, even though Manchester City billed themselves as the “Fourmidables” after winning the Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Community Shield in 2018-19.
Goals scored do not count towards the race for the Golden Boot, while red cards are also overlooked. Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic was sent off against City in the 2012 Community Shield at Villa Park, but did not receive a suspension because of the non-competitive status of the game.
The winners get a medal in the shape of a miniature Community Shield, so there is something tangible for the victors, but few within the game actually regard the Community Shield as a trophy of significance.
Which clubs have won it most often?
Manchester United have the most wins, lifting the Shield on 21 occasions. Arsenal and Liverpool stand second in the all-time table with 15 wins each — Saturday will see the two clubs both playing in their 24th Community Shield.
United also hold the record for most defeats in the Community Shield with nine losses. Chelsea share that unenviable distinction having lost nine of their 13 appearances in the fixture.
Does the outcome of the game have any significance for the season ahead?
Although the Community Shield often sees two of the biggest clubs in England face off at Wembley, history shows that the result of the game should not be taken as a reliable pointer for the season ahead.
Over the last 10 years, only two Community Shield winners have gone on to win the title at the end of the season — Manchester United in 2010-11 and Manchester City and 2018-19.
The game can give an indication of which team will start the season well, but there have been some good examples of both the winners and losers going on to have completely different campaigns than their Shield performance would suggest.
In the 1992 Shield, champions Leeds United beat Liverpool 4-3, but went on to finish 17th and avoid relegation by just two points. Six years later, Manchester United lost 3-0 to the previous season’s double winners Arsenal, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s team bounced back spectacularly to achieve a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League Treble nine months later.
What are the most memorable games or moments?
Eric Cantona scored a hat trick for Leeds during their 4-3 win against Liverpool in 1992, but it is another clash between those two clubs — who meet at Anfield on the opening weekend of the Premier League season — which is often regarded as providing the most unforgettable, and infamous, moment in the fixture.
Back in 1974, the first-ever Shield game at Wembley was marred by a punch-up between Leeds captain Billy Bremner and Liverpool’s star player Kevin Keegan, which saw both men sent off. Such was the public outcry, both players were charged with bringing the game into disrepute, fined £500 each and suspended until the end of September, meaning they would both miss 11 games.
Another iconic moment came in 1967, when Spurs goalkeeper Pat Jennings scored against Manchester United with a kick from his own penalty area.
What can we expect between Liverpool and Arsenal?
The short gap between the end of last season and the start of this campaign makes Saturday’s game one of the most unpredictable Community Shields. Fitness will be an issue, with managers Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta keen to ensure a good start to the season as well as priming their players for a long season that will see them play almost non-stop until the end of May.
Liverpool will be desperate to win to maintain their trophy streak by winning the Shield for the first time since 2006, but Arsenal have a strong recent record at Wembley and success for them could boost hopes of a title challenge. With two attack-minded teams, though, we can reasonably expect goals and excitement.