Sunday, 18 August 2013

Wenger, Gazidis and Kroenke at fault as Taylor's shocker guns down Arsenal

Afternoon Gooners.

If Arsene Wenger wanted a scape goat for Arsenal's disappointing opening day defeat to Aston Villa he needed to look no further than referee Anthony Taylor. The official had the most incompetent performance I've seen in many a season at the Grove yesterday - and I've seen a lot of Mike Dean and Phil Dowd games involving Arsenal.

He was inconsistent. Gave fouls which weren't. Allowed Aston Villa to dictate the game with persistent fouls. Gave advantages when there wasn't one. And didn't give advantages when there were. He stopped the game to talk to players when an advantage was on. And then didn't book the player.

But Arsene Wenger said we should have won the game despite the referee's poor performance.  And he's right. The team he picked - the same one which finished the game against Newcastle on the last day of last season - had enough quality to beat a very average Aston Villa side.

Our downfall was a mixture of awful decisions from the referee, injuries to our players and poor finishing.

The game started brightly. Jack Wilshere skipping away from a challenge and playing a delightful ball to Tomas Rosicky. The Czech international played a delightful through ball to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the 20-year-old's cross found Olivier Giroud who tucked the ball into the far corner after some great off the ball movement.

Villa weren't in the game until Agbonlahor's bursting run in the 20th minute. He avoided Ramsey, skipped past Wilshere and then beat an on rushing Koscielny. Running into the box, he poked the ball to the side of Szczesny and was then taken down by the keeper. The referee played advantage and Weirmann's shot hit the side of the post and went wide. But then unexplainably the referee pointed to the spot.

Now my understanding is that you are able to play an advantage outside the box but not inside it. So why didn't Taylor blow up when Agbonlahor was taken out by Szczesny? He's allowed Villa two bites of the same cherry.

Benteke took the penalty which was saved by Szczesny but the rebound fell nicely for the forward and was headed home. 1-1.

Minutes later Gibbs and Weirmann went in for a 50/50 aerial challenge and it was the Arsenal left back who came off worse. He had a deep cut to his face which requited treatment and had to go off, to be replaced by Carl Jenkinson, who came on at right back with Sagna switching to the left back berth. We were 25 minutes into the game and already had picked up our first injury.

There were further half chances for Giroud and Walcott in the first half but nothing clear cut which either Arsenal player could take advantage of.

Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere had his name taken by the referee after reacting badly to a Vlaar challenge. The Villa captain was booked as well. And then right at the left of the half, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Luna went for a loose ball. Both players collided when they slid to the floor and it was the Arsenal man who came off worse. The challenge wasn't a booking. That was the last involvement the England had in the game as the whistle went for half time. Cazorla came on for the Ox at half time.

Arsenal had the better of the opening exchanges of the second half. Giroud had a scuffed effort and Rosicky had a glorious chance to put us back in the lead after a one-two with the tall Frenchman. But his effort was high and wide.

At the other end Delph had a chance which hit the post and went wide after Mertesacker offered the Englishman too much space.

It was in the 61st minute when the game was turned on its head with the award of a second Villa penalty.
Laurent Koscielny should never have received a booking for his challenge on Agbonlahor when Taylor awarded the spot kick. He got a foot on the ball as the Frenchman slid to the ground to get the ball off Agbonlahor and it went out for a corner or goal kick. It was a 50/50 ball. The linesman kept his flag down and it was Taylor looking on from behind who awarded the decision in Agbonlahor's favour.

Benteke stepped up and made no mistake, sending Szczesny the wrong way.

Koscielny was shown a second yellow when he clipped Agbonlahor as Villa launched another counter attack. Agbonlahor clapped as Taylor awarded a second yellow and then the red card came out. I hate that.

At 2-1 down we still had our chances and Westwood should have been booked well before his 66th minute challenge on Ramsey. And he should have been sent off for several of his fouls.

Rosicky should arguably have gone down in the 71st minute when he was clipped by Lowton as he drove into the box. It would have given us a penalty and probably a red card too. But the Czech international stayed on his feet and shot at Guzan..

The Villa keeper had to be at his best to prevent Cazorla from equalizing six minutes later as the Spain international's shot parried onto the woodwork. And Arsenal had a second claim for a penalty when Wilshere was blocked off in a Villa sandwich in the 81st minute.

It was bound to happen though and we were caught on the break from our own corner six minutes before full time.  No one was checking the run of the left back who fired past Szczesny. That prompted the first chant of the afternoon of "spend some f*ing money" and led to a mass exodus.

But it wasn't the end of Arsenal's bad luck with injuries. In the 89th minute Sagna went into an aerial challenge with Benteke and landed on his head/neck. It looked serious and the manager said post match the defender had little chance of being fit for Wednesday night's game with Fenerbache.

Finally in one of the final actions of the game in the 94th minute Agbonlahor booked for third challenge when he clipped Wilshere's heal. He should/could have been booked a lot earlier.

Overall a very disappointing afternoon. I can understand fan's frustrations because of our lack of activity in the transfer window and that will lead to a lot of discussions, but the players we had on the pitch could have won us the game. And we'd have been in a better position to do that had the refereeing performance not been so shocking. Added to that we had three serious injuries.

The problem the club has created for itself is because of the statements the chief executive made about us spending big in the transfer window. Maybe he was acting on the orders of Stan Kroenke but I very much doubt that.

And there lies another problem. We have a businessman who is our owner not a fan. Does he care if Arsenal  lose? Not as much as you and I. Is the message coming down from Kroenke to Wenger that he want his team to maximize its resources so that we have the best equipped team to mount a title challenge? That doesn't appear to be happening.

Yes the club should have spent some money before the start of the season but I hope this will act as a huge wake up call that we do not have the resources to challenge for trophies on all four fronts. We have a squad which is extremely light and yesterday's injuries don't help.

The season starts in August and not Septmeber and that is what we should have been ready for. There is still time to sort this situation out, but patience is running very thin. Without changes quickly, Arsenal are going to have little hope of getting back into the top four for next season and have no chance of winning any of the cup competitions.

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