The traditional curtain lifter of English football holds some intrigue for some of the big stars on the continent in Leicester City and Manchester City
Following their victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup final, Leicester City will have the honor of opening the upcoming Premier League season.
The Community Shield is a strange little peculiarity of the traditional calendar. No one is sure how serious it should be taken: usually, on the larger side, it is only seen as an extension of the pre-season schedule, while for the weaker one it is a legal chance at silverware.
Based on the outcome, these prospects may change (and often do too).
Manchester City, against whom the Foxes will strive, is always competitive, no matter the circumstances. This is what happens when you boast backup options that most other clubs would like to overlook as an appetizer. Despite their impressive signing so far this summer, Leicester do not have the same depth.
Regardless of their different estates, both clubs offer a look at what the new season holds. Winning the community shield will ultimately not determine their fate, but it should still be fascinating to see in which direction these parties tend.
How soon does the torch of Vardy-na-Daka pass?
For Leicester, there are question marks on both sides of the field.
The signing of Patson Daka was an example of the wise decision-making that underpinned their rise. It is expected that he will eventually replace Jamie Vardy as the leader of the line for the Foxes; to get him in now, Brendan Rodgers offers the option to relieve him of the responsibility.
However, the initial signs were good.
In the 3-3 draw with Leicester against Queens’ Park Rangers, the Zambian was electric after arriving for Vardy, scoring a goal and winning a penalty, leaving fellow substitute Kelechi Iheanacho in just over a half an hour of action. Both engagements show the sharp acceleration that makes him so dangerous in the final third as well, giving the foxes the threat they often lack when Vardy was unavailable.
Since the Englishman has not yet managed to harm the back of the net in the pre-season, it will not be a big surprise if Daka starts against Manchester City.
That, of course, would be a vote of confidence from Rodgers, and it is noteworthy that the 22-year-old has so far started only one preseason game: the goalless draw against Burton Albion. But if the shield is just a glorified friendship, why not? It would, if nothing else, render a verdict on the readiness of the former Salzburg man.
Ndidi on center-back: crazy experiment or something more
The other point of intrigue lies with Wilfred Ndidi.
The Nigerian’s influence on the club’s game has been well documented by now, and there is still the prospect that he could leave King Power Stadium this summer.
However, the purchase of Boubakary Soumare from Lille, as well as Rodgers being fascinated by the idea of the 24-year-old as a center-back, suggest that there may be another task for Ndidi this season, especially in light of Wesley Fofana’s latest setback in the injury.
The difficult-to-adjust midfielder appeared on defense several times last season, with mixed to negative results. (The two legs against Burnley were particularly informative about the success of the idea). Against QPR, he was again used in the back three.
While it’s simply a temporary measure to deal with the absence of Johnny Evans and Timothy Castagne, it’s a little harder to explain him in front of real midfielders like Daniel Amartey and Filip Benkovic in the preseason.
Ndidi is obviously not a stranger to playing the center-back; he played there for Nigeria at a youth level, but only switched to a defensive midfield role when he moved to Genk. Could it be that Rodgers has a bee in his hood about this? Or is it simply a matter of convenience?
Either way, the Community Shield should provide some insight into the thinking of the Leicester boss, as well as its viability on a decent level.
What do Grealish rumors mean for Mahrez?
Among his prospective tormentors in the late Wembley afternoon is wing Riyad Mahrez.
Gradually, international Algeria won Pep Guardiola’s confidence in Manchester City. Last season he earned 39 times, compared to 28 and 35 in his first two seasons at the Etihad, and now he seems to have a better understanding of what the Spaniard tactics require of him.
He would no doubt have expected to insist even more and imprint his personality on this side of town. However, the signing of Jack Grealish’s club puts the pressure back.
If the Aston Villa man came as an advanced central midfielder or as a left winger, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden would become a direct rival of the right wing that Mahrez made his own.
It is also noteworthy that the former Leicester man, at 30, is nominally on a downward trajectory. However, a strong performance in the Community Shield will send a message to Guardiola, as well as to the other rivals, both of whom have yet to appear in pre-season, due to extensive post-euro outages.
Mahrez essentially gets a lead; his ability to seize it could really set the tone for the coming season.