Saturday, August 17, 2013

Arsenal 1 - Aston Villa (plus the Ref) 3

Arsenal started the game brightly, scoring early on a nice flowing counterattack, started by Rosicky and finished by Giroud from a lovely run and cross by Oxlade-Chamberlain. But the referee conspired with Aston Villa to snuf the Gunners out. A horrible penalty call against Laurent Koscielny, leading to Villa's second goal, followed by a soft red card to Koscielny a few minutes later, left Arsenal fighting an uphill battle with just 10 men. Arsenal created a few good scoring opportunities (particularly two created by the excellent but unfortunately errant Thomas Rosicky), but Villa also created plenty of good opportunities on the counterattack, hitting the inside of the woodwork on one occasion and scoring the final nail in Arsenal's coffin on another.

As I observed yesterday, if the Gunners started the season on the wrong foot, the fans will quickly be calling for the heads of Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis. Well, it doesn't get much worse that a home loss on opening day to a mediocre side. In fact, the crowd turned on the manager even before the ref blew the final whistle on today's game. The fans were chanting at Wenger, "You Don't Know What You're Doing!" On the evidence of today's game, who could disagree? With 100 million pounds in the kitty and superior (to what they have now) talent available, the lack of summer spending, despite promises to bring in star players, is not only puzzling; it is shameful.

They say that the proof always is in the pudding. Today, we Gooners were forced to eat some disgusting pudding, indeed, If Wenger had any sense left, having now been proven not just wrong but completely out of touch with reality, he'd resign immediately. Doubtless he'll try to shift all the blame to the referee. But even without Taylor's interventions, Villa were at least the equal of Arsenal on the field.

Who played well for Arsenal? Rosicky (even though he failed to score when, on at least one occasion, he really should have); Oxlade-Chamberlain (before being substituted at halftime); Sagna; and Koscielny (despite his thoroughly undeserved red card); Giroud (who scored Arsenal's goal and played hard throughout); and Cazorla (after taking a few minutes to acclimate to the match as a second-half substitute).

Who played poorly for Arsenal? Walcott (why are they still allowing him to take, which is to say waste, free kicks?); Szczesny (although not responsible for the first penalty, his tendency to go for long walks outside the goal area is troubling); Ramsey and Wilshire (both of whom were almost kicked off the pitch by Villa, but neither of whom either passed the ball well or even really tried to attack the defense). Of course, Arsenal's poorest player is still the manager, who is responsible for who is, and who is not, in the squad. And, by the way, what the hell did he think he was doing throwing Podolski on the field for the final few minutes?

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