If any Gooner was asked to write the worst possible script for today’s match against Aston Villa, there is no way that he would come anywhere near today’s horror show. We lost the opening match of the season 3:1 at home against a team that was near relegation in the last two terms, one defender got two yellow cards (out of which at least one wasn’t deserved) and both full-backs got injured. That horror was sponsored by Anthony Taylor who was officiating today’s game. Taylor’s name should be written on the walls of Referees’ Hall of Shame, the one where at the entrance you would see the statues of Mike Dean and Mike Riley.
And, it didn’t look that bad at the beginning. Olivier Giroud had to wait until the seventh match of the season to score last term, but this time it took him just six minutes before he opened his account for this season. Rosicky – arguably the best Arsenal player today – combined with Oxlade-Chamberlain who made a darting run on the left flank. The English winger made a low cross with the side of his right foot for Giroud, who made a run to the near post and swept the ball home. It was a dream start for the Gunners.
The first problems for the Gunners came in the very next minute of the game. Theo Walcott collided with Baker and picked up a knock. Walcott played the rest of the match but it was visible that knock had an impact on his game.
However, despite an early lead, Arsenal didn’t control the game. Arteta’s absence left a huge void in the midfield and the Villains pushed for an equalizer. Delph created problems for Sagna on our right flank, but Mertesacker and Koscielny dealt with visitors’ attempts. However, Koscielny wasn’t at his best when Agbonlahor made a run through the middle. The Englishman nutmegged Koscielny before entering the penalty box. When he tried to round Szczesny, the Pole brought him down. Referee Anthony Taylor had called the advantage before Weimann’s attempt at an open goal hit the side-netting. After that miss, Taylor pointed to the spot and gave Szczesny a yellow card. Christian Benteke was one of the rare top players in the Premiership that hadn’t scored against Arsenal before today’s game, but that changed in 22nd minute – the Belgian striker took a poor penalty that Szczesny deflected into the air with Benteke easily heading the ball home to equalize. All problems for our team started from there.
Kieran Gibbs was the first victim of the rugby-style of our visitors. After he got a cut on his head, he was substituted with the only defender Wenger had on the bench – Carl Jenkinson. Szczesny showed a lot of insecurity when he dashed to clear the ball. In the end, he had to run back to his goal quickly to save a precise shot from Ashley Westwood. Before the break, another set-back for the Gunners as Oxlade-Chamberlain collided with Luna. The Englishman got injured and wasn’t able to return to the pitch. Santi Cazorla – who was tired after his international trip to Ecuador – replaced him.
Giroud nearly scored another goal at the start of the half-time. This time, Walcott found him in the box but the Frenchman failed to react quickly enough so the visitors cleared the danger. Rosicky had a much better chance to restore our lead only a minute later but his shot went over the bar. Delph – who gave a very decent performance today – responded with a powerful low shot but the post saved Szczesny and Arsenal. What was worse about Delph’s shot was the incredible amount of space he was given by our defenders and defensive midfielders. Cazorla didn’t help either – he lost the ball to Agbonlahor before the Englishman made a run into the box that ended with the most controversial decision of the day. Koscielny tried to get to the ball with the sliding tackle, which he did, but Taylor pointed to the spot again and gave Koscielny a yellow card. Benteke took the ball again but this time Szczesny didn’t stand a chance – 1:2.
Only a few minutes later, Koscielny committed a foul and was given another yellow card. That was another set-back for us. The funny thing is, it was like an injection of energy for our players. First, Rosicky made a wonderful combination with Giroud but failed to find the net – Guzan was in excellent shape. The American goalkeeper pulled an even more amazing save a few minutes later when Cazorla had a sitter, but Guzan pulled a magnificent stop with a little help from his crossbar. That was the last chance for Arsenal – apart from the poor free-kick that Walcott took – to save at least one point from today’s nightmare. The Villains, however, had another one and used it. Cazorla tried to hit the volley but his shot was blocked and cleared for the counter-attack. Luna was totally alone on our half of the pitch and had no problems to put the ball past Szczesny to round Villa victory. Bacary Sagna got injured as well and it is a miracle that his neck didn’t snap as he fell to the ground awkwardly but luckily he survived it.
What can one conclude about today’s game?
1.Referee’s can ruin the game.
2.We need new signings before Fenerbahče and Fulham.
on a frustrating afternoon…
It’s a big disappointment to lose a game like that because we prepared well, apart from the fact that the players were away on international duty. We started the game well and then suddenly everything went against us and in the end we lost 3-1 so it is a big blow and even when we had 10 men we had chances to come back to 2-2. Not only did we lose the game but we have a few injuries and many kicks which were unbelievable on our treatment table. We have problems with some players [in terms of] recovering for Wednesday night.
on taking positives from the game…
I feel there are still a lot of positives. We had some lively moments and kept going until the end and that’s what we have to focus on and forget the referee.
on the second penalty decision…
The linesman said to me that he did not give the penalty and he was at the level of the tackle. So why does the referee – who did not give the penalty straight away – suddenly give the penalty? That’s what is amazing to me. I would understand if the linesman said it was a penalty but you have to live with that. Just because you get these decisions given against you it doesn’t mean you should go on to lose the game. We have to focus on ourselves now.
We were on the market before the game and we are on the market after the game.
on who picked up injuries during the game…
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs, Sagna. Gibbs has a deep cut. Sagna and Rosicky have problems. Wilshere – I don’t know how he will respond after the full 90 minutes. Ramsey has a problem after a kick at his ankle. On that front, we have done quite well.
on why money hasn’t been spent…
I can return your question. Could we have won the game with the players that were on the pitch today? That’s for me the real question. And I say yes. After that, if we do not spend the money, it’s because we do not find the players. I’m not the only one to work on that. We are a team who work on that. We are ready to buy the players if we find that the players are good enough for us. That’s all we can tell you.
on if he understands the fans…
Yes, I can understand that. We want our fans to be happy. When you don’t achieve that, you feel absolutely sorry and really disappointed when the fans are not happy. My job is to make the fans happy. We haven’t lost the game because of that. That’s what I just want to convince you of. That we are on the market, everybody knows that we are ready to buy players. Everybody knows. Until we buy players, we have to win football games and it’s not an excuse not to have bought players to have lost the game.
on his future…
We live in a media world and everybody has opinions that are definite and I have to live with that. In 16 years, I’ve shown my loyalty to this Club. My worry is to do well. That’s the only worry. As long as I’m here, I want to do well. I’m absolutely hugely disappointed because we’ve come out of a 10-game run in the last season without any defeat and we start the new season with a defeat at home. It’s a massive blow and that’s why the solution is not to sit here and say, ‘Yes we’ll buy and keep you happy’. What is important for us is to win football games with the players who are on the pitch and continue with what we did last year at the end of the season. When you have the ambition that we have, it’s difficult to accept that you lose the first game at home.
on if it’s wrong to call for signings…
I’m not here to say who is right and who is wrong. I’m here to make people happy who love this Club. When we don’t do it, I feel sorry. I have to look at the solution at the start of the game. We couldn’t go out at five to three and buy six players. When the game starts, you have to win the game. Could we win the game with the players we have? I say yes. That is my answer. After, we are out to buy players. People always say ‘buy players, buy players, buy players’. When you tell them ‘tell me who?’ it becomes much more problematic.
on why it’s so difficult to buy players for Arsenal…
We take our work seriously and believe me, we analyse every single player in the world. We work 24 hours a day for that. When we make decisions, we take it seriously. People try to think we do not want to spend. We want [to]. We are ready to buy players.
Sagna Mertesacker (c) Koscielny Gibbs
Video highlights are available at the allArsenal.com Video Page