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5 Aug 2017

#CommunityShield: Why Arsenal are now favourites to beat Chelsea

The last time Arsenal travelled to Wembley Stadium, they did so wounded and weary. The most difficult season of Arsene Wenger’s career, one in which the club finished outside the top four for the first time in his reign, rested entirely on the outcome of their FA Cup final against Chelsea. No-one, save for some of the most optimistic fans, gave them a chance of overcoming the Premier League’s runaway champions. Yet they did.

Fast-forward three months and suddenly two teams that could not have felt further apart before that match are a whole lot closer together. When they meet again on Sunday in the Community Shield, not only is the result too close to call, Arsenal might just even edge it as favourites.

Since that FA Cup victory, Wenger has once again solidified his position at the club, signing a new contract and promptly spending the kind of money that had previously seemed like the preserve of richer, more ambitious clubs. But the mentality at Arsenal is changing. Alexandre Lacazette arrived for a club-record £50 million – a player they have needed since Robin van Persie moved to Old Trafford – and they have held firm over their contract rebels.

The general opinion always prevailed that, eventually, Wenger would buckle on Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. But his latest remarks, more assertive than with any previous wantaway player, suggest he really means what he says this time. ‘Alexis is focused. My decision is clear, he will stay. He will accept that. I think he will be here for this season. If we manage to do it for more seasons we will.’

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