Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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What Does Winning the Community Shield Mean?

The Community ShieldOn August 5th 2018, Pep Guardiola added another new trophy to his personal honours list. Yes it was 'only' the Community Shield, and yes it is dismissed every season as a 'glorified friendly', but then again it is a piece of silverware, and one that takes a lot of effort to be eligible to compete for. It was also, memorably, a competition that José Mourinho described as being the 1st instalment in the Manchester United 'treble-winning' season of 2016/17...



In reality the truth is somewhere in the middle, the Community Shield is a trophy, but it clearly has a status that is well below that of the Premier League, FA Cup and the League Cup. However, no team will want to begin their season by losing at Wembley, so don't be fooled into believing that it's a game that doesn't matter. On the other hand, what does winning the Community Shield mean for a team once the ticker tape has been swept up and the last bottle of champagne drunk?

The annual curtain-raiser was 1st held in 1908, featuring Manchester United vs QPR, and known as the Charity Shield up to being renamed in 2002. However, it wasn't until 1921 that the game pitched the champions of the First Division against the FA Cup winners (from the previous season). This format only became firmly established in 1930, and aside from a couple of anomalies (in 1950 and 1961), it's remained virtually the same ever since.

Taking all of this into account, and how prior to 1993 there were a number of occasions that the trophy was shared following a draw, I've examined the statistics for the Premier League era, to provide the most relevant snapshot of the data.


Average League Finishes of Community Shield Winners and Runners-up

 

Since 1992/93, the year that the Premier League began, there have been 27 editions of the Charity/Community Shield. Looking at the 26 completed seasons in that time, the average league finish for the winner stands at 3.23, whereas for the runner-up it is 4.73. So the difference is exactly 1.5 positions, which is surprisingly narrow.

In fact the difference would be much less if it wasn't for the fact that Wigan Athletic managed to get relegated within a week of their unexpected FA Cup triumph of 2013. In the 2013/14 season they achieved a credible 5th place in the Championship, but being a division below obviously impacts the overall average of the Community Shield runners-up.


Manchester United Dominate Community Shield Stats



In terms of the ultimate success of winning the Premier League, it's a surprise that Community Shield winners have only gone on to win 'the big one' 7 times. This is especially true when we factor in that the runners-up have amassed 6 title triumphs between them.

Of course, Manchester United dominate the raw statistics, they are responsible for 5 out of the aforementioned 7 title wins, with Chelsea claiming the other 2, plus 3 out of the 6 title wins achieved by Community Shield runners-up. Overall, Manchester United have won 12 and lost another 6 Community Shields, an appearance rate of 66%, which stands testament to what Sir Alex Ferguson achieved at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, the unwelcome accolade of being the worst Community Shield winner in the Premier League era, easily belongs to Leeds United. Following their 4-3 victory over Liverpool in 1992, the defending champions and last winners of the old First Division, mustered up the most lack-lustre of title defences and finished 17th in the inaugural Premier League season.

The infamous sub-plot to this is that a certain Eric Cantona scored a hat-trick for Leeds in their Community Shield win, and yet the club went on to sell their star asset to Manchester United just over 3 months later. It was as mad as it sounds, and Cantona was instrumental in helping the Red Devils win their 1st league title in 26 years, by 10 points.

Since 1992 there's only been 1 season that the Community Shield winners have failed to finish within the top 6 of the Premier League. This occurred in 2013/14, when winning the Community Shield marked the high point of David Moyes' ill-fated tenure at Manchester United (and they ended up 7th).


Predictions from Community Shield Results



The team with the 'worst' Community Shield record, throughout the Premier League era, is Chelsea. They've notched up an impressive 8 losses out of the 11 times that they've participated, and when doing so they've never gone on to win the league title. In fact their average league finish when losing the Community Shield is 4th place, which might not be a bad bet for how they do this season, following their latest Wembley defeat.

The recent Manchester City victory means that they now have a 50-50 win-loss record since the Premier League began. So, what happened when they previously won the Community Shield in 2012/13? The answer is that they lost their title and finished 2nd in the league, albeit to Manchester United, not something I can see happening again in 2018/19. Then again, if Liverpool can live up to hype, perhaps history will repeat itself and the Citizens will fail to defend their trophy.


Whilst we can produce some Premier League predictions from these statistics, perhaps the most telling is how in the past 6 seasons the title winner hasn't once appeared in the Community Shield. The last time the winner or loser secured the top prize in English football, was Manchester City in 2011/12 and the slightly embarrassing Agüero cry by Martin Tyler.

This coincides with the debate over the difficulty in retaining the Premier League these days, as the last time a club won successive titles was Manchester United, between 2007/08 and 2008/09. The traditional top four of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool have been expanded into a top 6 by Manchester City and Tottenham. They're not all genuine title challengers at the moment, but they all have the capability of taking points off of each other, as do most of the rest of the league.

Manchester City may have taken things to a new level, and broken several significant Premier League records in 2017/18, but their defence isn't a foregone conclusion. The Community Shield won't determine how Pep Guardiola and his team perform over the next 9 months, but it certainly reflects the difficulty that they will face in building their dynasty.

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