I’m not even sure where to start, as no one else has offered to do the report i’m going to try and fill the breach.
I have to admit that I missed a portion of the first half between our opener and their equaliser (parenting duties called).
There were no surprises with the team and bench, we are down to bare bones before a ball has been kicked, the absence of Arteta was a concern to all. We had seen in the Emirates Cup that Ramsey and Wilshere are not yet ready to partner each other in the deep lying midfield roles, this is due to a mixture
of inexperience and lack of understanding between them when it comes to one staying and one going.
We started brightly our opening goal a lesson in how to break quickly and clinically, Rosicky playing a great ball down the line to Oxlade-Chamberlain, he in turn picks out Giroud who finished well having made a good run in the box.
What was all the fuss about? We were going to prove the doubters wrong.
What followed was a combination of our old failings, individual errors that brought pressure and lifted Villa, an injury stretched squad
picking up more injuries in innocuous challenges, and our complete inability to get a ref to do us a favour once in a while.
The Villa equaliser came from a bit of good play from Abonglahor, he drifted past too many half challenges with ease no one getting close enough in red and white and was hurtling into the box, Szczesny had few options….stand big and hope he fluffed his shot or go for the ball, he chose the latter and raced out to the feet of Abonglahor, he lost the race Abonglahor pushing the ball past him and taking the contact. Taylor let play go on to see if there was an advantage but as the Villa player stuck it in the side betting he brought it back for the penalty. (Remember this later when I give a full assessment of Taylor).
Szczesny got down well to save the initial penalty but Benteke was first to react and nodded it home. That was disappointing as when watching the replays you see Benteke stop after he takes his kick which should have meant we could at least make his second chance more difficult but Szczesny was left exposed and the Villa front man nodded gratefully home. I should say I think Szczesny made a bad choice on the rebound, he jumped towards the ball, which made Benteke’s header a bit easier…..not that I am blaming him, it’s just another lesson our young keeper can learn.
Not long after we were being forced into a reshuffle, as Gibbs challenged for a header, his forehead connected with the back of the Villa players head. I was surprised at the amount of blood on Gibbs forehead and unable to be stitched and return he was substituted, I guess with the midweek trip in mind as much as for the players safety.
This is where the first calls about our squad lightness will appear. I have two comments:
1) If Monreal had been fit it wouldn’t have been an issue, if anyone believes we should have three senior left backs in the squad please do not moan about squad bloat or paying too high wages to squad players ever again.
2) Even if Monreal was fit he wouldnt definitely be on the bench, after all you don’t have one player in each position on the bench, and we could have easily seen Jenkinson on anyway.
For me I would have left Sagna at right back rather than switch two positions, although to an extent I can understand why you wouldn’t want to young players making combination on the left.
We made it to half time at 1-1 with a couple of scares along the way and not much more created going forward.
We started the second half ok, Cazorla on for Oxlade-Chamberlain another injury….Cazorla seemed to help the team retain possession and do a bit more with it but it also unbalanced us, there was no real cover for Sagna on the left side of midfield.
That was until we undid ourselves again, the ball moved far too easily through the midfield leaving Koscielny tracking back to win possession, which he did with ease, clearly playing the ball, it looked good on first viewing it looked better on replays, Taylor and his linesman decided otherwise awarded the penalty and booked Koscielny. Koscielny’s look of disbelief and smile said it all.
Benteke took the spot kick and sent Szczesny the wrong way.
Just six minutes later Taylor decided to put the icing on the cake of one of the worst refereeing performances I have seen by producing a second yellow card for Koscielny, he had hardly touched the Villa man (if at all I haven’t watched a replay) but he made another step before sprawling himself to the floor. Taylor bought it and showed Koscielny the second yellow.
At this point it was game over, if we wanted to get anything from the game anyway, we could have opted to shut up shop and go away with a 2-1 defeat, but instead we tried to find the equaliser, which was always going to leave us wide open at the back.
We went close a couple of times, Rosicky sending one high and wide and another into the body of the Villa keeper. Giroud had a half chance to hit one with his right peg but chose instead to try and bring it back to his left.
Villa took the opportunity to add a third as we had over committed to attack and Szczesny was left 2 on 1 and no chance.
It is hard to deny we are light on numbers, however the only position that would have helped us yesterday would have been defensive midfield, as with (the panic bought) Arteta missing there was too often a big hole in the centre of the park, and I would guess with his presence we would not have conceded so much ground on Villa’s opener. But this comes down to when we want to spend and who we are trying to spend the money on…do we want a Premier League defensive midfielder or a Champions League one? In two weeks time it may be irrelevant, but surely better to wait and buy the best we can get than rush in and buy average, remember no one likes average squad players on good wages.
As I said earlier despite injury to Monreal surely spending on a left back would be frivolous unless we plan to let one go as well. A centre back would be handy at this point, loaning out Miquel seems crazy if we don’t plan to buy big in this area, as I’d prefer a young centre back raised the Arsenal way to another Squillacci.
The same goes for the spear head of our attack.
And now the ref…..where do I start. He allowed Villa to get away with numerous fouls before being booked, the same did not appear to apply to us. He played advantage on their penalty, but rarely have us advantage for innocuous fouls when we had the ball. I can remember two clear occasions, Rosicky fought to turn his man, once he had turned and had taken him out of the game Taylor blew his whistle for the foul to allow Villa to reset, a late foul on Wilshere by their full back in our half, the ball was with Cazorla ready to get moving and Taylor pulled it back and allowed Villa to reset. Garbage,
And then bookings:
Koscielny 2 fouls, 2 bookings
Cazorla 1 foul, 1 booking
Abonglahor 4 fouls (repetitive ankle taps) 1 booking (last one)
Westwood 4 fouls 1 booking (last one)
And then the curse of rotational fouling, we suffered 18 fouls, 8 on Wilshere, targeted? Just a bit! Allowed to get away with it….absolutely….but of course it’s up to Arsenal Football Club to protect Jack for England…do me a favour!!
So what did we learn, well nothing new really we already knew it all, but it makes it harder to judge when all the other footballing gods appear to be against us.
I do know that this coming fortnight is going to be very tough, and we will see signings one way or the other, it’s just a question of what level of player they are.
If anyone wants to rate the players they can, I can’t after that result because I don’t think it would be fair.
Gooner in Exile