'I saw a lot of positives today', said Arsene Wenger, in his post match interview with Sky Sports News. I can only assume this occurred somewhere other than the Emirates, maybe at his breakfast table, or perhaps something to do with some now finished road works while making his way to the game.
4 shots on target. 2 penalties conceded. Koscielny red carded and so subsequently suspended. Szczesny extremely lucky not to also receive the same treatment. Gibbs off injured after 26 minutes. Sanga highly likely to have concussion or worse. Walcott, anonymous.
In truth, it was awful. To quote some lyrics by Queen, "It started offso well". 6 minutes in and Giroud, free scoring in preseason, guided a perfect cross/pass in from Oxlade-Chamberlain. 1-0 to the Arsenal was the cry. Maybe Arsene was right after all? The boys really are good enough?
No. Not even remotely. The stats flashed up that Arsenal had been having more of the possession. So what? Try asking the owners of a certain house in Amityville if that's always a wonderful occurrence.Villa settled, attacked, and caused problems. so much so that, when Gabriel Agbonlahor went through the Arsenal defense, the only option left for Szczesny was to take him out. It probably should have been red. It was yellow. One of many decisions which raised a few eyebrows from the officials today.
Benteke stepped up to take the penalty. Szczesny went to his right,saved, only to see the ball rise up, and be nodded in by the same player. Gibbs was replaced by Jenkinson with what looked like a head injury. Arsenal look impotent, Villa, stronger. Halftime came and the booing began. Something must change. Wenger concurred.
The second half started seeing Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced by Cazorla,and some energy returned to Arsenal. Rosicky, Arsenal's best player by a country mile, missed probably the best chance of the game for Arsenal, losing composure when clean through and blazing high and wide. At least it was an attack, but Villa still pressed. Fabien Delphhit the post, and the ball gave a reasonable chance for the new goal-line tech to be utilised. It was never in, but the graphics looked snazzy nevertheless.
Agbonlahor, a constant pain, broke forward again. Koscielny gave chase, slid in, took the ball, and was yellow carded for his trouble.In the box. Penalty number two. This time Benteke finished with aplomb. 61 minutes gone and Arsenal were frustrated, reasonably right to feel aggrieved, and 1-2 down in their own back yard. This was supposed to be an easy start to the season. None of the top 3 teams in their first 10 games. It got worse. Quickly!
Koscielny, some would say, was victim to an egregious error from the linesman. However, he was guilty of a similar offence himself, He took out Andreas Weimann where there was really no need. Play went on, and he thought he'd survived, until the advantage had gone. The referee blew, and the second yellow followed. He should have known better.
Villa stood firm. Rosicky probed, Wilshere harried, and there was a fantastic reaction save from Guzan, as Cazorla looked to restore parity. Instead, the red defense parted again. From an attack where Arsenal had committed players forward, Weimann gathered the ball deep in his own half, and fed Antonio Luna, Villa's left back into acres of space racing towards the Arsenal penalty area. He gave Szczesny the eye, sent him left and went right. 1-3!
It was no more than Arsenal deserved. Villa too. They took their chances, nullified Walcott to a point where you wondered if perhap she'd been substituted unnoticed, and accepted some decisions which were erroneous in many eyes. They could not be happier, going into their next game against Chelsea on Wednesday. If this is what it takes to beat a top 4 side at home, it should be a breeze.
The problem is, Arsenal look far from a top 4 side. The title of the Queen song above is "Save me". Arsene needs to sign some world class players to do exactly that. His neck is stretched and the Arsenal fans have axes ready. The boo's were resounding, as was the loss. Fenerbahce loom, and the lack of purchases in this transfer window so far, and the late injury to Sanga to compound things further, things do not look good at all.
Arsene can see all the positives he wants. There will be many though who note the irony that, for a man who regularly doesn't see what's there, this time it appears, he's seeing what isn't.