With an interval to accommodate a winter World Cup, the coming football season has a different flavour and the same is true of the Community Shield between Manchester City and Liverpool.
Wembley usually hosts the curtain-raiser on the final Sunday before the new campaign but, owing to the Women’s Euro 2022 final, this year’s is on Saturday at Leicester City’s King Power. Instead of 90,000 fans there will be 30,000, so it won’t feel the same.
Community of changes
There will also be change on the field, with both City and Liverpool signing traditional centre-forwards in Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez. Their arrival may force Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp to tweak the way their teams play and I’m fascinated to see what they do.
Trying to integrate a No9 in a team used to playing with a fluid front three doesn’t always work, as Romelu Lukaku’s struggles at Chelsea last season show. But Haaland and Nunez are exciting, surrounded by quality and, at the very least, give their managers more options.
While I don’t think Guardiola will radically alter City’s style, I do think we will see Jack Grealish play a more prominent role than last term. We have already seen how he could link up with Haaland when he set up the Norwegian for a goal against Bayern Munich in pre-season.
I think Guardiola is trying to make City more clinical and that was probably a factor in letting Raheem Sterling leave. With Haaland they have more capacity to score different types of goals, particularly from crosses.
Playing in the Community Shield always seems like a little advantage to me. The teams get the closest thing to competitive action before the real thing starts a few days later. It’s the first game of the season before the first game of the season.
It is also the opening skirmish in what is likely to be another 12-round fight for the Premier League title. In that sense it is big for momentum and belief. A week out from the big kick-off, both teams would much rather the conversation around them be about a win.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. @TrevorSteven63.