Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa:
Not a good way to begin any season, never mind this one, where we were supposed to push on from our strong showings at the end of last season. The match began very promisingly for us gooners. Giroud running on to a fine cut-back from Oxlade-Chamberlain after a swift trademark Arsenal counter-attack. 6 minutes into the game, and it was really falling into place. But it's never that easy for Arsenal, is it? Within no time, Villa were back in the game. Agbonalahor cut through the heart of our defense(no midfield cover whatsoever), and smartly rounded Szczesny, who had no choice but to bring him down. Penalty for Villa. Benteke stepped up. Credit to Szczesny for going the right way and managing to save it, but he's an Arsenal 'keeper, so it can't be perfect, and he parried it right back to Benteked who inevitably headed home. From then on, it was deja vu. Pointless possession from Arsenal, surprisingly clinical opponents(I don't know if it's me, but I think these smaller teams turn up their game when they face Arsenal), bad defending, bad refereeing and a customary Arsenal collapse.
I don't think any gooner across the world was expecting this kind of performance or result. Even without any additions to the side, I think our 'eleven' on the day were good enough to dispatch off an average Villa side who, only last season, had become well acquainted with the relegation zone. And although I agree there was some horrendous refereeing in the game, but we really shouldn't have been in a position where such decisions could have changed the result of the game. We weren't good enough.
Where the game leaves us:
It's probably too early to decide what implications this defeat will have on our season. But it certainly leaves major doubts in my mind. There was a bigger issue than the defeat that came out of the game. Most of you know what I'm talking about. Injuries. And a lot of them. Gibbs, Sagna and Oxlade-Chamberlain all picking up knocks, adding to the already injured list of Monreal, Vermaelen, Arteta and the omnipresent Diaby. These injuries leave us hoping for a recovery by either Gibbs or Sagna for the game on Wednesday night. That is what our squad has come to. And that brings me to our next point.
The wait for September 2nd:
At the start of the summer transfer window, a lot had been promised. Funds were finally available, big names were being linked to the club and there was a sense of optimism. Two whole months later, no progress. The only addition being, 20 year old free transfer, Yaya Sanogo. Not to disgrace him, a lot is being expected of him in the long term, but there has been no significant addition which could boost us in the imminent future. Suarez, Williams, Cesar, Guztavo and the likes have been linked to us all summer. Guztavo was one player I really respect, and was hoping he could be the one to lead us to glory. But for some odd reason he joined Wolfsburg. Maybe they were paying him more, most probably Wenger was being himself, but whatever the reason was, we've lost a gem of a player and he plays a position in which we really need reinforcements. 21 million seemed worth it. Anyway, what's gone is gone. Now, the topic at hand. Luis Suarez. Surely, controversy aside, one of the best strikers in world football today. And a talent Arsenal football club could do with. But, contrary to popular belief, I am convinced he is not the player we need. He comes with a huge price tag and doesn't have the best of reputations, and there will always be that fear that he may not be able to justify the price tag. 45+ million for a player? To me, it looks like everything our club has stood against all these years. It would destroy Wenger's philosophy, the Arsenal way, blooding young players into world stars. This is what has been setting us apart from the Madrids and the Citys of the game. It is our identity, and I am proud of this. I love how Hugh Wizzy(ArseBang on youtube) can say that Aaron Ramsey cut 150 million worth of players with a single pass(preseason match against city), how we can say that even by spending a fraction of the amounts big clubs are spending, we still manage to make it to the biggest stage.
Now don't think I'm one of those cliched Arsenal fans. I do believe we need to spend on players for at least 2-3 positions. Ashley Williams would be a good start. Experienced, captain of his club and country, and a good defender to keep Koscielny and Per on their toes. Julio Cesar would be an option worth considering too. He performed admirably at the Confederations Cup this summer, and would be keen to maintain his place in the Brazil squad. Joining Arsenal would help definitely help him, and it would help Szczesny by giving him competition and an experienced head to learn from. A third option is, Bender from Bayer Leverkusen. Young, German and more importantly a good defensive midfielder. Something we crave. Finally, in the attacking positions. We certainly need some competition for places in our front three, if not an upgrade to any of our current players. You know my stand on Suarez. But I am overjoyed to hear that we are linked to Burak Yilmaz. 32 goals last season, 8 of which were in the Champions League. Very good option. Otherwise there are players such as Georginio Wjnaldum who have been linked. Hopefully Wenger can at least reinforce the squad, if not buy 1 or 2 upgrades who would go right into our first team. That's about it for now. All we can do is wait for September 2nd.
P.S :- I would like to make a special mention. And it regards a forgotten man in the Arsenal defense. Club Captain Thomas Vermaelen. Even though he didn't play a part in our little run at the end of last season, his quality hasn't diminished in my eyes. Club captain, he should be the player the rest are looking up to and respecting. I think he will be back to his best this season, and I sincerely hope he can lead our beloved club to some success.
Off to Turkey now.
COME ON YOU GOONERS!
Mean Lean's Response
I have wanted to write about the match and about our squad, both times I haven't been able to coherently put anything down. So for therapeutic reasons I think I will just chuck up a few words at the end of your good article if I may.
One the game itself, we have come across issues that we faced many times last season, we lacked creativity in the team. We do not create chances the way we used to. Not long ago we used to spurn so many chances but on the weekend we did not create enough when you look at our possession at home against a side like Aston Villa. That said, we still had some excellent chances to put Villa to bed. Our best player on the day, Tomas Rosicky was very wasteful and on another day could have scored a brace. But I find it difficult to apportion too much blame on his doorstep because he was pretty much the only player in our team to show anything positive going forward.
We played a large part in not getting anything from the game whether that be squad depth, performance on the day, finishing, creating chances, defending or whatever. But it seems to be frowned upon to look in the referee's direction when sharing out any blame for the result. Playing not well enough and having game changing decisions from a referee are not mutually exclusive. It is why teams are able to play poorly yet pick up narrow victories over a course of the season. Sometimes this works to our benefit, it obviously does not even itself out or any such rubbish but you are bound to get the rub of the green at times over the course of a long season. On Saturday the referee ruled out the option of playing poorly and winning. I could accept incompetence if it meant that both teams were dealt equally poor hands but it seemed clear to me that one team was allowed to kick when they felt like it and one team was not. This is not even to mention the two controversial penalties.
But like I said, an Arsenal team on form would have beaten both Villa and Taylor who incidentally has been dropped from the FAPL list
Yet while the referee stunk the place out the questions continue as to why we are lacking in numbers at the start of the season. a fully prepared squad would more than likely have three points tucked under their belts.
The question is why are we waiting to make new signings? It is the most important question yet we are unlikely to get any answers.
It is easy to blame Ivan Gazidis or Dick Law or Arsene Wenger. In fact any combination but it is guess work. Has Arsene given his list of targets and the negotiation team are making a pigs ear of getting players in? Is it Arsene switching targets or not wanting to add anyone in particular?
This is what I do not understand. Going by previous history, Arsene has had a squad with a certain amount of depth to it. The one season where we are in our greatest ever (possibly) financial position we are going into the first game of the season thin on the ground.
The only way that this would make any sort of sense is if we had verbal deals in place that is dependent on Champions League qualification. Players that have been identified and are a perfect fit to our squad but also improve the squad far above the likes of Capoue, Bony, Wanyama etc etc.
Yet I am struggling to believe that this is the case. Arsene has a lot of pressure on him now yet I pray that he pulls something out of the bag before the window shuts. We still have a very good young core of players, hard work was put in to get them to the stage they are at now, so those 3-4 players should they eventually ride in on horse back can still make this a very good season. Much later than all of us would have wanted of course but better than not at all.
There is no doubt though, that it will take an extraordinary end of window to unite everyone together. The atmosphere at the Emirates at the end was horrible. I was jealous watching the Chelsea support the next day and wished it felt like that at the Arsenal.
It is a long season, players will come in for sure, it is just a case of what level of quality.