43 min: Saka’s corner is a non-event. In lieu of action, here’s Matt Dony: “Right. First game of the season, and I’m already annoyed. The referee, the commentary team and Peter Walton all agree that ‘There wasn’t enough contact for Mane to go down.’ Can anyone point out the rule that says there has to be enough contact to knock someone down? If you pull someone back, even slightly, while making no effort to play the ball, how is it not a foul? And this isn’t one-eyed Liverpool bias; I get just as annoyed when Liverpool players do it. Skrtel essentially built his whole game around it, and it infuriated me every time. Ah, I hate football.”
42 min: Maitland-Niles stands one up from the left, momentarily confusing Alisson, but Milner ushers it away from a throw. Arsenal work it around to the left again, allowing Tierney to have a whack. The shot balloons off Gomez and out for a corner.
40 min: One corner leads to another. And another. Arsenal are struggling to get out. From the third, Robertson curls delightfully from the left. Mane eyebrows it gently. At the far post, Van Dijk mistimes his attempt at trundling home, and the ball sails harmlessly out of play for a throw. Robertson will be wondering how he’s not got an assist to his name. On another day, he could have had two or three.
39 min: Salah threads a stunning diagonal pass through a small gap in the Arsenal defence to Robertson on the left. His low fizzer is poked out for a corner by Bellerin. Just as well, for red (and teal) shirts were lined up behind him.
38 min: Arsenal stroke it around the back a bit in the old George Graham style. A smart move, with Liverpool having built up a little momentum.
36 min: Gomez hoicks an extremely ambitious shot over the bar from distance. No need for this sort of traffic-on-North-Circular-bothering desperation yet.
35 min: It’s not quite happening for Liverpool. Mane does extremely well to keep the ball in down the left and tiptoes along the tightrope. Robertson joins in and whips another fine ball through the six-yard box. Salah can’t reach it with his big toe.
33 min: More good work from Arsenal down the left flank, and the ball ends up at the feet of Nketiah, just inside the Liverpool box. He tries to sort his feet out, but can’t fix them in time, and Van Dijk grabs the opportunity to intercept and clear.
31 min: Liverpool try to raise the tempo. Mane and Firmino exchange crisp passes down the left. A little brush between Bellerin and Mane, the latter going over, but he’s not getting a penalty for that. Robertson fizzes the loose ball across the face of goal, but there’s nobody there to poke home. Then another phase, and Salah has a shot blocked easily enough.
30 min: Milner sends a couple of crosses in from the left. Both are cleared easily enough, though hats off for the skill he displayed before the second, taking down a looping Gomez pass with an exquisite cushioned touch and spin.
28 min: Saka finds Nketiah down the inside-left channel. Nketiah drops a shoulder and, in looking for the top right, lashes well over the bar. It’s Arsenal who are looking more likely at the moment. Liverpool have barely threatened since falling behind.
26 min: Williams thinks about delivering a ball into the Arsenal box from the right. He hesitates, and allows Aubameyang, tracking back at speed, to nick it off his toe. Aubameyang is clearly willing to put in the work Arteta demands. Now they just need to get him to sign a new contract.
24 min: So having said that, it all goes a bit scrappy. Both teams are playing it like they mean it, though. Don’t let anyone argue this means nothing.
22 min: Williams and Milner take turns to shoot from the edge of the Arsenal box. Both attempts are blocked at source. Liverpool come again, Milner trying to find Firmino in the middle with a hooked pass, but Arsenal hold firm. This match is good fun.
21 min: Some space for Tierney down the left. He crosses too high, and it’s an easy claim for Alisson. But the momentum has almost totally flipped. Now it’s Arsenal who are first to everything, enjoying the lion’s share of possession.
19 min: Saka isn’t perfect, mind, and he loops the resulting corner into Alisson’s arms. What a prospect the 18-year-old is, though. A real discovery.
18 min: Gomez is robbed by Nketiah in the centre circle. The ball’s slipped wide right for Saka, who nearly gets a second assist, advancing down the flank then cutting back for Nketiah, who doesn’t have to break stride as he sidefoots powerfully towards the bottom right. Alisson does extremely well to turn the shot around the post.
16 min: Hats off to Saka for the crossfield ball that set Aubameyang on his way. It was a sensational pass. Something’s afoot at Arsenal under Arteta.
14 min: That goal came very much against the run of play, and Liverpool look a little stunned. A question mark over Williams’ positioning, though Tierney was making off on the overlap, so he had plenty to think about.
GOAL! Arsenal 1-0 Liverpool (Aubameyang 12)
Arsenal go straight up the other end and score! Saka sweeps right to left. Aubameyang drives at Williams down the left. He nudges the ball inside, given too much time and space, and lashes an unstoppable curler into the bottom right! What a finish!
12 min: Luiz slices out of play under pressure from the Liverpool press. Williams takes up possession on the right and curls onto Milner’s head. He should work Martinez at the very least, but heads harmlessly over.
11 min: Liverpool have enjoyed 60 percent of possession so far. Arsenal are struggling to put anything significant together.
9 min: Arsenal seem happy enough to sit back and look for Aubameyang with long passes. It’s all easy enough for Van Dijk and Gomez at the minute. Here’s Tom Hopkins: “That Arsenal kit put me in mind of the surface of Europa (the moon, not the limit of their continental ambitions).”
7 min: Robertson curls it in. Van Dijk sticks out a boot and guides the ball across Martinez and into the bottom corner. He doesn’t bother celebrating the goal, because he clearly went too early and had been caught offside. The Arsenal back line holding their nerve well. VAR checks, totally unnecessarily, and we play on.
6 min: Wijnaldum runs at Luiz down the inside left and is nudged over clumsily. A free kick. Everyone lines up on the edge of the Arsenal box.
5 min: Robertson hares down the left and curls a glorious deep ball towards Salah, to the right of the D. Tierney sticks out a leg and nearly sends an absurd looper over Martinez’s head and into the top right. But the keeper backtracks well and claims. Tierney enjoyed that, a tacit admission that he might not have meant to do exactly what he did.
3 min: Liverpool are further into their pre-season, and it’s showing in these very early exchanges. The champions first to everything at the minute. Mane breezes down the left and clips back for Robertson, haring down the inside-left channel. But the pass isn’t quite there. Holding does just enough to deal with the situation.
1 min: Liverpool are immediately on the front foot, Mane shaking and shimmying at Bellerin down the left. Bellerin stands firm and passes his first test.
Liverpool get the ball rolling. But not before a knee of solidarity and love is taken. Black lives matter.
The teams are out! Arsenal are in their … yes, we’ve already covered this, haven’t we. Suffice to say, at a slightly damp and dreary Wembley, we’ll be off in a couple of minutes. Just the national anthem, pennant swap and coin toss to get out of the way. “That Arsenal shirt looks like the kitman left his red pen in a track suit pocket while loading the last wash. Nobody is buying his Marble Halls malarkey,” writes iconoclastic architecture critic
Here’s what happened the last time these two met.
Mikel Arteta talks! “It’s always good to be back at Wembley. We’re going to be fighting for another trophy. We have some really nice memories of this stadium. But when this game is being played is a little bit awkward. Winning a trophy generates belief and it was great to win another FA Cup title. We know the opponent we are facing, but we are convinced that if we do what we have to do, we have a chance to win. A lot of names are not even on the bench at the moment, we have players that have only had one training session. But it is what it is, and we’re going to put out the strongest team possible. But having five days training is not ideal. Martinez was our goalkeeper in the FA Cup, and he deserves to play this final.”
Jurgen Klopp speaks! “I would say we are ready. We have enjoyed training so far. Yes, the break was not too long, but it was absolutely OK. The boys look good. We are as fit as we can be. I hope I don’t have to spend all year talking about defending the title because I don’t understand that phrase 100 percent. We have the same in Germany, I never understood it there, it’s not about the language. You cannot defend a title when it’s an open race for everybody. So we try to attack again. But we don’t have a guarantee that it will work out, so why worry about that now? This is a really good opportunity for us, a big game, I am excited. But I saw the Arsenal line-up and it looks good.”
Match rules. If it’s a draw after 90 minutes, there’s no extra time. We’ll be going straight to penalty kicks. Each team will be able to make a maximum of six substitutions.
The FA Cup holders will be wearing this beauty today. It’s a nod to the marble halls at their much-missed Highbury pile.
The league champions Liverpool will also show off some lovely new architecturally inspired threads. They’ll be sporting their usual first-choice red, now with a teal trim that references the birds atop the Liver Building. “The unique name and number fonts are designed to embody characteristics of Anfield and the surrounding area,” adds Nikolaus Pevsner.
Eight of the Arsenal team that started the FA Cup final four weeks ago are named again. Not here at all this time: Dani Ceballos, Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette.
James Milner captains Liverpool in the absence of the injured Jordan Henderson. Trent Alexander-Arnold is also unfit; he’s replaced at right-back by Neco Williams.
Arsenal: Martinez, Bellerin, Luiz, Holding, Tierney, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Xhaka, Saka, Nketiah, Aubameyang.
Subs: Leno, Cedric, Saliba, Kolasinac, Olayinka, Willock, Nelson, Smith Rowe, John-Jules.
Liverpool: Alisson, Williams, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Milner, Wijnaldum, Mane, Salah, Firmino.
Subs: Adrian, Keita, Grujic, Jones, Minamino, Tsimikas, Brewster, Elliott, Koumetio.
Referee: Andre Marriner (Birmingham).
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Here’s the legendary Guardian football correspondent David Lacey on Liverpool in 1979: “Their strength remains in their teamwork and in their ability to get the basic details of passing and positioning right for most of the time. When they have got the ball they consistently make space, when they lose possession, space disappears.” There you have it: the laconic Bob Paisley and the gregarious Jurgen Klopp, two peas in a pod.
Liverpool dominated Arsenal in that year’s Charity Shield. Alan Hansen channelled his inner Franz Beckenbauer, Terry McDermott scored twice, and a swaggering Kenny Dalglish display was topped when he sent Steve Walford off to the wrong fire before slotting past Pat Jennings. Liverpool won 3-1, payback for defeat in a marathon FA Cup semi the season before.
Liverpool got a little payback again ten years later, as the teams met for the second time in the Charity Shield. This one came off the back of the Michael Thomas game, and Arsenal could be forgiven for not giving a solitary shiny one as Peter Beardsley scored the only goal of the game. Liverpool were dominant again that day, though couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that George Graham’s champions had got the better of the deal over the long haul.
The two teams met in this fixture for a third and final time in 2002. It was the very first match under the new Community Shield guise, and it was Arsenal’s turn to dominate. Having won the double the previous season, they showed no signs of letting up, enjoying 56% possession and getting nine shots on target to Liverpool’s measly one. They won 1-0, Gilberto Silva scoring the only goal less than six weeks after winning the World Cup with Brazil.
So here we go: round four! Liverpool haven’t won this thing since beating Chelsea in 2006; since then, Arsenal have won it in 2014, 2015 and 2017, seeing off Manchester City and Chelsea twice. Both clubs are looking to add the Shield to their roll of honour for the 16th time, though Arsenal have more outright wins, 14 to Liverpool’s ten. (They used to share back in the day, kids.) It’s the traditional curtain-raiser between champions and FA Cup winners that doesn’t really mean that much … but neither side will be turning up their nose at silverware either. It’s on!
Kick off: 4.30pm BST.