Arsenal’s Pre-Season Form Disappears on Opening Day

Arsenal Lose to Villa and to Injuries.

Arsenal’s impressive pre-season form did not last long on the opening day of the Premier League. After taking an early lead through Olivier Giroud, who was fed a great ball by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, things went downhill very quickly.

Pre-season Arsenal had a successful tour of Asia, where they won every game and culminated with a win over Manchester City in Finland, the week before the season got underway. The more optimistic of us Arsenal fans saw this as a good sign for the coming season, despite the lack of spending, with only one new acquisition, Yaya Sanogo a 20 year old forward.

Fans have been crying out for Arsenal to clear out the deadwood and it was done wholesale in the off season, with 21 players either sold or loaned out. But this was where things started to go wrong. These players were released before adequate cover had been brought in. This took its toll immediately on the first day of the season. Arguably Arsenal’s most reliable mid-fielder, Mikel Arteta, was injured in training and faces up to 6 weeks out with a thigh injury. Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal both have back problems, leaving the side with no cover at left back or at the centre of the defence. Those holes were soon opened up in the Villa clash.

Kieran Gibbs was injured and Sagna was forced to cover the left back position, while Jenkinsontook his place on the right. When Sagna was later injured himself he was replaced by Lukas Podolski, because he was the only remaining left sided player on the bench.

Arsenal were unable to capitalise on their early lead and had both good and bad fortune at the back. They were lucky not to concede two goals, when Szczesny ventured about 10 metres outside of his area and when Fabian Delph hit the inside of the post but the ball failed to cross the line. But luck did not hold out, Szczesny brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor in the area and managed to save the resulting penalty, but the rebound went straight back to Benteke who headed it into the net.

Aston Villa’s second penalty should never have been awarded. Koscielny slid in on Agbonlahor and cleared the ball, but the referee saw this as a foul, awarding the penalty and booking Koscielny. Minutes later Koscielny was booked again, this time without touching a Villa player. The second booking meant that he was sent off and Arsenal were reduced to 10 men, with no cover at centre back.

Arsenal went all out to try to claim back some points. Guzan made impressive saves from Rosickyand Cazorla. But all of this attack left gaps at the back. Eventually Andreas Weimann released Luna and he fired past Szczesny at the near post, to finish the game 3-1 in Aston Villa’s favour.

The Arsenal fans at the stadium were far from happy, chanting to Arsene Wenger “You don’t know what you’re doing” and “Spend some fracking money”. I’m not sure what fracking has to do with the money, maybe it’s an interest of Stan Kroenke.

Now I have long been a defender of Le Boss, when other fans have been calling for his head. But now he has me completely baffled. Why would you release all of your cover players unless you are sure that you have players to bring in and replace them?

Secondly the targets that they have gone after in the transfer market do not seem to cover the weaknesses in the squad. The positions which need strengthening and have done for several seasons now, are in the centre of defence, defensive midfield and goalkeeper. These are far more urgent requirements than for a striker.

Arsenal had four players who scored well over 10 goals each last season. Theo Walcott scored 21 mainly from the wing. Having the goals come from a variety of sources is an advantage that many supporters do not seem to appreciate.

I for one would hate to see Luis Suarez at Arsenal. Of course we would love his goals, but a player who spits, bites, dives and racially abuses other players is not my idea of an Arsenal man and I would far rather we got our goals elsewhere.

In the meantime the three sides that finished above Arsenal last season all got off to great starts again, despite all of them having a change in management. Man Utd beat Swansea 4-1 in WalesChelsea beat newcomers Hull 2-0 and Manchester City got off to a superb start with a 4-0 win over Newcastle. Ex Arsenal men Van Persie and Nasri both scored for the Manchester sides.

Arsenal’s next big challenge is on Wednesday night in Turkey, where they face Fenerbahce in the Champions League qualifying first leg. We wait to see what side Arsene Wenger will pick with Sagna and Oxlade-Chamberlain being added to the injury list.

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