Arsenal Slump To Opening Day Defeat As Lack Of Depth Is Exposed


Arsenal 1 – 3 Aston Villa

1 – 0 Giroud (6)
1 – 1 Benteke (22)
1 – 2 Benteke (62 pen)
1 – 3 Luna (86)

Laurent Koscielny sent off (74)

Anybody who didn’t expect the reaction to this defeat hasn’t been paying attention at all this summer.

It was a poor performance, nervous, intimidated, sporadically good, frequently average, throwing in abject defending to complete the set. Last season all in one game, the lessons unlearned and the pre-season condemned as a fraud. If one thing comes from yesterday, it has put to bed the lie that all we had to do was turn up to replicate the end of season run, that this squad was stronger than last time around. As it stands, there is not enough depth for the coming week; Wilshere, Ramsey, Gibbs, Sagna, Rosicky and speculation this morning that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might be out for three months.

The squad is down to bare bones, struggling to find four defenders to take the pitch on Wednesday in Istanbul and all that the manager can offer is that he and the other executives on Team Incoming Transfers (you work out your own acronym) continue to search for new signings. It is the world’s most expensive game of Hide and Seek; Arsenal aren’t very good at it. Spending money for money’s sake is not an answer, you will get found out. Not spending money equates to an illusion of wanting to invest but an unwillingness to compromise when the ‘ideal’ signing cannot be found.

And all the while, the manager berates the media for their agendas, for having their stories already written. Performances like that one offer them little need to exercise their imagination, the words fall readily onto their screens.

When the line-up was announced, there were few complaints. The XI selected to start seemed good enough to win. Indeed the plan worked, a sixth minute goal from Olivier Giroud set the afternoon for a winning start. A warning came when Giroud stumbled in his celebration, unable to complete his slide on his knees in front of the travelling support.

And then Anthony Taylor intervened, a nervous and absent defence compounding his incompetence. To blame the referee entirely for this defeat is to seek to excuse those who are as culpable, to absolve the players and manager of their culpability. Neither should Mr Taylor be let off the hook, for it was a truly terrible performance with an interpretation of the Laws of the Game which at times beggared belief.

Amid all of this were moments that offered a fleeting hope that it might be a good afternoon, the break at the from one end of the pitch, eschewing the opportunity to find Row Z, Jack Wilshere pass added to Rosicky’s wizardry baffled the Villa midfield to free Oxlade-Chamberlain, capped off with fine movement and a cute finish from Olivier Giroud. A sweeping move, concise passing, clever movement. A false dawn which was soon engulfed in dark clouds. The real problem was that Arsenal managed just three more efforts on target for the rest of the game. That is the starkest indictment, the marker of the poverty of this display. They went close, they had openings which were stifled by the visitors defence but putting just a quarter of those opportunities on target is abysmal.

The visitors would make Arsenal pay for the lack of ingenuity, the absence of meaningful attack. Agbonlahor carved a path to the penalty area through the legs of the centre of the defence and was sent tumbling by Szczesny. At which point, the referee has a decision to make; is it a penalty (no complaints, it was) and are Villa accruing an advantage through play continuing? The visitors did but Weimann put his shot into the sidenetting, the phase of play ended. Except Mr Taylor decided that advantage interpreted itself as not scoring therefore the penalty would be given. It was genuinely baffling and it will be little surprise if he finds himself refereeing Football League matches next weekend, so fundamental was his error. Szczesny redeemed himself temporarily with his save but Benteke headed home the rebound to level matters.

What followed was baffling sterile football from Arsenal. Rocked from the goal, they did not pick themselves up, there was no impetus gained. Instead they allowed themselves to be kicked and bullied into moments of petulance, manifesting in Jack Wilshere’s yellow card. That he showed composure and maturity to avoid the same fate as Laurent Koscielny bodes well. The Frenchman is an altogether different case. The only effort of note before the break saw Theo Walcott snaffle the ball from Guzan but fritter the moment as the ball failed to reach anyone in a red shirt. In between times, Kieran Gibbs had departed the field on a stretcher, necessitating Bacary Sagna moving to the left with Jenkinson slotting in on the right. Szczesny went walkabout, imbibing on the defensive slackness, eshewing every lesson learned from being dropped, scrambling back to his line as Westwood sought to embarrass the Pole. It would be little surprise to see Lukasz Fabianski in goal on Wednesday.

The second half was little better, the Arsenal attack impotent and Villa punishing mistakes. Delph struck the woodwork as a warning and just past the hour, Arsenal trailed. Agbonlahor exposed the lack of pace in the Arsenal defence, luring Laurent Koscielny into a tackle, one that Mr Taylor adjudged to be foul in its execution. Benteke made no mistake with his unconvincing spot kick. For the Arsenal defender, the yellow card gave him his warning, one that went unheeded. Koscielny reflects the team, embodies it and absorbs the mood with its extremes in performances. There is a flaw where he repeats the same mistakes time and again, every early season has a Koscielny mistake that is costly; own goals and red cards mark his Arsenal career in the first month, sometimes in the same game. Whether they are deserved or not, to repeat the mistake every twelve months is beyond careless.

It ended Arsenal’s hopes of winning, salvaging a point became the aim. Rosicky and Giroud carved an opening, Guzan blocked the effort. Cazorla thought he had equalised, Guzan tipping his shot onto the woodwork in the final ten minutes.

And then the hammer blow, the inevitable Villa counter-attack. Without a defender to bring on to compensate for Koscielny’s absence – the folly of Arsenal’s transfer ineptitude – a third for the visitors was a dangerous possibility. It happened, the ball cannoning off Luna on the edge of his own area. Receiving the return pass, the Spaniard sprinted clear of the beleaguered defence to drill home via the inside of the post.

Every game sees the manager praise his players resilience; never have they needed that trait so deeply. A bedraggled bunch will head to Turkey, wondering who will form the defence. It is too late for Team Incoming Transfers to impact that but failure to act before next weekend is as inexcusable as their dilatory behaviour so far.

’til Tomorrow.

241 thoughts on “Arsenal Slump To Opening Day Defeat As Lack Of Depth Is Exposed

  1. Bill says:


    We had fewer injuries then would be expected for an average PL team and no significant “referee” issues last season and we still were out of the chase for a title by October and finished 16 points back. We took 1point out of a possible 18 from the top 3 clubs. Depth was not the issue last year.

    We have lots of good players but not enough truly excellent players of the type we need to compete for PL and CL trophies.

    At this point we need numbers just to stay in the hunt for 4th and to get through the CL group stages if we make it through the qualifier.

    2011 showed us what adding that sort of depth can do near the deadline can do, but if we really want to compete for titles we need some players who are good enough to walk directly into the starting 11 and make us a better team.

  2. Moe says:


    Interesting and you seem to think I’m the first to make that statement.

    I also think you seem to not understand what an opinion is. Opinions are subjective, it is why it is called an OPINION. So for you to say that my OPINION is non sequiturs is weird because my opinion is not based on logic. It is based on feeling in the absence of fact. How can i be illogical when i am expressing an OPINION?

    Moving on, no offense but by your logic no one should say anything or comment AT ALL in any capacity because we do not have facts.

    Then what on earth is opinion about?! Everybody on every blog commenting should just stay away from a keyboard because they have no facts.

  3. dukey says:

    cheers bill, nice to know someone other then Anicoll likes my gags!

  4. Zinc says:

    Police Academy 5 is on ITV4 people, a perfect void filler while we wait for Wednesday.

  5. MikeSA says:

    Moe, I do think you have a point, but I think the board and Wenger do care, they just care about different things to the fans.

    Wenger is on a mission of some sort, just fuck knows what it is.

    The board and majority shareholder also have their goals and ambitions, the interesting question is whether the three ambitions and goals actually coincide, or whether they just happen to intersect at this point.

    The customers (that’s us), have no say in the running of the club, except when we stop lining up to be milked.

    It looks like this season was already a close call. If this goes badly wrong I think the PR and drop in revenue could be significant. Right now attendance is a major contributor to turnover. Of course the club is working hard at removing that problem, but the customers can make a difference by withholding their funds, the only problem is that for a while there are still enough gullible sheep around for the club to take advantage of. It does seem to be changing though.


    Bill, G4E

    Fact is we need quantity to stand still AND quality to advance…

    We could have got – eg – Aubameyang, Capoue and Rami (all French and probably love to be at Arsenal) for not much over £30m and still had more than the same again to capture a Marquee signing. All those were there for the taking six weeks ago… and we’d be in so much better shape now – and probably more likely to attract someone significant when we qualify for CL… Now even that looks like nail-biting, protracted and maybe even concluding in court……


    * French-speaking – not all French, Aubameyang is from Gabon!

  8. G4E says:

    Will in that case Bill and if I agree with you, our 70 million quid may get you one superstar….is that enough tom compete for a the CL and the League? I doubt it.

    As you can see, 40 million was not enough to land Suarez. Let’s say 50 million would get him, we are left with 20 millions and by those standards , 20 Millions would get you another mediocre player.

    We do need a sugar daddy, or a sugar Mama….that would be nice.

    YW should start advertising: Any Super rich ladies out there wanna have a crack at us?

  9. G4E says:


    That’s what I was saying earlier, we just need players similar in the value and quality of players like Cazorla, Giroud, etc.

    Spending 50-60 millions on one star will not get you anywhere.

  10. Bill says:

    Higuain would have been about 30 Fellaini 22 which leaves another 18 for a decent CB and Julio Cesar. Leaving some left over for a Joel Campbell or 3.

    Let’s say Suarez could have been about 50. Gustavo 16 that cuts it a bit shorter for the CB and GK but still within reach. Our revenue will be going up every year for the next few so we could have afforded to spend a little extra this season if we needed

  11. colts says:


    soz for late reply, bin digging back garden all day. just going through comments now.

    thanks for reply, what i get from that is the f.a know he’s crap but have done nowt but have a chat with him? his ways havent changed.

  12. G4E says:

    I thought Gustavo chose wolfsburg over Arsenal? Nothing to do with money?

    I would not call Fillini a superstar or he would not be still playing for Everton (With all due respect to Everton people).

    Higuain, there are question marks there again about he chose Roma over Arsenal. I don’t know how much Roma paid in him, but it may be that we couldn’t agree to his personal demands.

    So it’s not all nice and easy as going to the store and picking up merchandise as we wish. There are two clubs and a player involved in all deciding on a mutual agreement.

  13. SV says:

    50 mln for a player?
    – who is one of the best strikers in the league;
    – who is 26 with good resell value in 2-3 seasons;
    – whose departure weakens one of the rivals.

    It’s a fair price.

  14. SV says:

    Just heard Phillip Auclair on the radio. He actually tried to defend Arsene saying that it’s too late to find good players. He also mentioned that Arsenaal’s transfer problems are systemic and have manifested themselves over the years with failures to sign Alonso and Mata.

  15. Bill says:

    The other thing to remember is transfer fees are usually paid out over several year periods so with our income going up year after year for the next several due to commercial revenues we could have had a lot more wiggle room to be more aggressive this season if we had wanted.

  16. SV says:

    I think Arsene and the board overestimate the attractiveness of the club for transfers. 8 years without a trophy would always have an impact on the brand. But the first step in addressing an issue is to face the reality. I do not think Arsene is ready for that. He’ll be happy to stay in his delusional world and blame football for going the wrong way.

  17. Henristic says:

    We can’t get the players we want without paying silly money. Yet, paying silly money for anything is just not our style.

    Our only hope is to find deals like Arteta and Cazorla again. That I guess is what the club is working 24/7 on. A tall order for sure.

  18. nicky says:

    All I’m saying is to start blaming Arsene or Ivan or the Board over the total failure to sign anyone during the current Window, when we are completely ignorant as to the various causes, is irritating in the extreme.
    There are so many agreements needed in order for any transfer to succeed.
    A typical scenario could be this. Liverpool would inform Arsene that £70 million would buy Suarez. At that fee Arsene would refuse the deal.
    Would you criticise Arsene over his decision?
    Should he care enough to pay any price to sign a player?

  19. SV says:

    I remember the economic theory of the glass of water in the desert. There is nothing silly about its price being huge.

  20. SV says:

    You have a CL qualifier, an encounter with huge football and financial consequences. You decide to spend big money on a player who will help you to go though. Not silly at all.

  21. SV says:

    I would be more cautious with the blame game about transfer failures if it were a one off summer.

    But seeing Chelsea building their team around Mata, Oscar and Cahill all of whom were our transfer targets? It’s not a one off.

  22. Bill says:


    We all know that the teams have to agree but thats the sane for every other team in the world. We have used that excuse when we miss targets for years now.

    The other option would be 1 big money player this year and use the rest to get typical arsenal type players and then go for another big one next year. Rebuild the squad on the 2-3 year plan rather then all at once. What we have actually done is the worst possible option of all

  23. G4E says:


    All that means bidding wars with Chelsea who have no problem spending 50 million on a player who did not produce much in 3 years.

  24. dukey says:

    so Wenger doesn’t know who the good players are now eh?? well we worked that out already with his poor buys. seems he can’t trust himself .

  25. SV says:

    If you are not ready or a bidding war, you should not start bidding. Otherwise Arsene accepts working as a Chelsea scout.

  26. dukey says:

    really gutted for the ox. he looked up for it and was going to push on this year.

  27. G4E says:

    That would be a more wise approach Bill, but it would still take have 3 years to be actually able to compete with Chelsea and City.

  28. SV says:

    Being outbid by Chelea? How about Napoli or Wolfsburg? That’s where we are now.

  29. Bill says:

    My ideal summer would have been Higuain Fellaini a CB and schwarzer for free that would have easily been affordable. It might not have put us over the top but it would have really helped. The next season you re evaluate and maybe add one more expensive player. You rebuild year after year by adding from a position of strength.

  30. JonJon says:

    hes a bargain hunter
    its very rare we’ll sign 4-5 cazorlas and artetas in one go because noones that lucky..

    just gotta pay the price sometimes and he wont do it because hes never done it

    its like an ocd hes got where he has to get them for cheaper than what they are worth..he turns every transfer into a battle in his own head and he walks away the winner everytime whether hes got the player or not because hes fucking nuts and he shops like a grandma..

    every fucker knew we had money to spend..thats why hes not signed nobody because he couldnt get them for a sky diver at the flea market and to him thats winning because he walked away rather than pay an extra 2 quid for his corn plasters

  31. Bill says:

    Clubs would sell their players to us if we would be willing to pay market rate. We should have had Higuain. There are players like that who could help us and we could afford to pay market rate.

    It would make no sense at all to use our new financial firepower to continue to do the same thing we have been doing for years which is fill the squad with 10-15M players. We have a whole squad full of players like that.

  32. SV says:

    To think that you declare a weakened squad for the CL qualifier and thus jeopardize the hard work of the previous season because you did not find the bargains on the transfer market?

    That’s where my inclination to rationalize and give a benefit of a doubt gives up.

  33. JonJon says:

    if we lose on wednesday he has to go then..

    no more the season ends in may, judge me then bollox..

    we did that 5 years ago..

    and hes still here driving everyone around the bend..

    give the job to bouldy for a year, see what hes got..damage limitation at worse and then we go get ourselves a proper manager next summer for 7.5mil a year and a 100mil transfer kitty we’ll get a few top applicants, dont worry about that.

    wenger can fuck off to psg and take his sunshine bus with him..

    then we can finally unite as a club and go for it properly..

  34. colts says:

    Sczxncxszy – doesn’t command his box well, prone to adrenaline rushes to prove himself worthy of the number one when at his age should be getting mentored by a number one.

    fab – please. older than scxzscxy and still cant displace him. bye.

    sagna – age catching up with him through consecutive injuries. losing pace. deserves to be winning something with the graft he’s put in.

    jenks – inexperienced.

    mert – complete liability one on one. way too slow.should be better in the air. but too weak to be able to jump it seems. ppl point to his calming organizational nature but isnt that bouldies job? and doesnt that imply the rest isnt up to scratch if he has to continually holla and scream? id prefer him to be back up.

    merts back up?

    kos – good job lad.

    vermaelen – gone a bit shit hasnt he. so even when he overcomes his injury, gets some training in and is finally match fit in what? feb? april. its not like we have anything close to a kompany coming back.

    gibbs – fingers crossed at all times till he gets a proper season under his belt.

    monreal – soon back isnt he?

    arteta – not his natural position, getting old and run into the ground. deserves summit like sagna. back up none existent.

    ramsey – inexperienced.

    wilshere – even more so.

    rosicky – getting old, injury prone till proven other wise. not a goal threat. decent back up to.

    cazorla – world class.

    the pod – is he back up to giroud now? lots of questions about his playing time, position etc…

    walcott – best rw in the league isnt he?

    ox – great utility player. inexperienced.

    diaby – bye.

    frimpong – inexperienced.

    ryo – see above. light weight, injury prone.

    sanogo – see above. bar light weight.

    giroud – great second choice.

    This is what a superclub is supposed to look like?

    this isnt new information. this has been known for a year at least. why has one of the richest teams in football not addressed ANY of this? so we couldn’t get suarez. so. i wouldnt want the club to pay 40mil either for him. how much is jackson martinez worth? pace, power, knows where the net is.

    they’ve had the benefit of the doubt for long enough.
    its not too late either. for me arsene has to pull at least 3 rabbits out the hat come deadline day. if not we’re gambling again. when there is absolutely no need.

  35. HALF TIME LEMONS says:

    colts’ analysis of the squad is spot on… and it’s wrong to say the squad is full of £10m-£15m players. If only – it’s only about three-quarters full of any bodies. A £10m substitute for Arteta, or Gibbs, or to replace the sent-off Kos might have looked a bit better yesterday

  36. Gris Gris says:

    Ugh. Never before have I had as little faith in the management of this club, and its future, as I do right at this moment (granted The Arsenal only appeared on my radar when Bergkamp signed so it’s not like I’ve been suffering for long!).

    I’ve been pissed before about abject performances, pissed before about signings not coming in, pissed before about not understanding what the heck Wenger is doing, but I’ve always been happy to wait it out and be patient and trust that he has a plan that will work. Who knows, it might all just turn around and remind all of us what it means to be a Gooner and to win The Arsenal way (multiple heart attack style). Well, YW, you nailed this post to the f$cking wall with your sentiments. It’s about F*cking time someone put a boot up everyone arse from the boardroom on down. I’m sick of this bollocks.
    And somehow I thought this summer and season would be different … I know, I’m a silly c$nt.
    Good grief!

  37. colts says:

    indeed htl, if only it was full of 10-15m players. you’d think that would be a minimum requirement for a club as big as ours.

    plus i missed out cazorla deserves better.

    imagine. next summer could be worse as a direct result of this one.


  38. UkGold says:

    Buy a some quality players, increase the physical work out during training and we would win the UCL

  39. Youknowho says:

    My concerns are manifold, but primarily it is directed at the person behind Arsenal’s current failings. Let’s not forget that the process of criticising Arsene, only began here last year, though within certain limits. I find it astounding as anyone else that we’ve gone into the new season without any significant additions. The football world must be in turmoil, if Arsene thinks, that Sonogo was the only worthy addition that ‘improves our current squad’. He’s really not cut out for the way football world operates now. Given how much money and football politics is involved. To me it was clear indication on part of Liverpool to increase the offer, since Rodgers claimed, it would take a bid as much as £55M (Cavani) for it to be worthy of any consideration. That’s a fair price for a player, not in his last year of contract, and two years younger than Robin, yet one could argue he competes with him as far as talent is concerned.

    That’s a fair price, to me at least, we’re not the big club anymore, where players would take salary cuts and leave their boyhood clubs for. We’re the club where our best players and unfortunately the captains have taken salary cuts or increases to leave, or to meet their ambition if you will. While some might question Robin’s intentions, it’s clear now that he chose well, he moved onto a bigger club that competes for trophies and doesn’t compete for the largest cash reserves or for that matter, balancing the books. Rather, financially, it makes more sense for clubs to increase their revenue streams by having star players playing in their team. Hence the reluctance to let go off Rooney. I think Moyes has pointed out well that it’s difficult to have ‘star’ signings every year, and we’ve sold most of our stars in the past few years. While we might still attract the odd player or two, in case of Suarez, I am surprised we’re not willing to deal with the reality of the situation, i.e we need to pay big money to acquire him, as every other club is doing.

    I think Arsenal minus Arsene, creates the opportunity for us to start afresh, with a new manager with new ideas. I don’t have any doubts anymore that he can unite the fans. As long as he’s here, we’re always divided. And judging from my own experience, I think there are a lot more people on the side that wants him out and want immediate change. Still, I think, it’s a good statement on part of the AST to give him an ultimatum for May. I personally think we won’t be competing this year as well, you can’t go into a new season, with such preparations. New players take time to adjust, pre-seasons are important, fans are to be united. We fail on all counts.

    For now, we can only hope he doesn’t spend the money, because clearly, judging from his buys in the last few years, I really wouldn’t trust him to spend the money wisely. Moreover, with all this Suarez saga, let us not forget that, some really good players made switches this year, even in the striking department, we had the likes of Cavani, Falcao (for the more adventorous minded) and Gomez, Villa, Higuain, Salgado, Jovetic (for those who are yet to adjust to our football reality). I see four five players in the striker position who can improve our first team significantly. And were our management sleeping, we should have made bids and come to a decision by July, given how we fared last season. No ambition at all. None. He might buy one world class player (though that looks unlikely now), he still wouldn’t spend enough to make a squad that is capable of competing with the big European clubs.

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