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What now Arsenal?

It wasn’t the start that we wanted. An opening day home defeat against Aston Villa made what was already a frustrated atmosphere going into the game, to be one that was almost poisonous. Arsene Wenger said that there are 6 teams in the title race. Well, whether he included us in the 6 or not, it’s fair to say now that we are definitely in the group of 6. Or rather, we don’t have the quality to be in that 6.

Perhaps that is an exaggeration of things. It’s still only one match. There are 37 more matches to go and if we win every single one of them, we will be champions. Simple and easy, right? Wrong. On what basis can you say that we can possibly win those 37 points? What is evident is the performance that the team put out yesterday. Based on that reference, we are only heading into a long and suffering season.

Yes, the referee was not very good, to put it very mildly. He was a bumbling fool who kept getting the decisions wrong. A different set of rules seemed to apply to Villa players when it comes to yellow card justification. Ours was based on a lighter scale which meant that our players are booked after committing just 1 foul when the Villa players can commit 4 before getting booked. The penalty decision was just plain ridiculous. Anthony Taylor will be ashamed to look back and see how much that changed the game.

The scored was tied at 1-1 when the penalty was given. In making the mistake of thinking that Laurent Koscielny clipped Agbonlahor, Taylor not only gave Villa the chance to take the lead but also the made the first booking that lead to us playing with just 10 men a few minutes later. To deny that this wrong decision was not crucial to the outcome of the match, would be a blatant ignorance of the incident. Yet, it would be a misrepresentation to think that the referee is solely responsible for our defeat yesterday.

We started the match without a defensive midfielder. Or if you don’t want to classify Mikel Arteta as such, we started without a disciplined midfielder who sits in front of the defence. Who’s fault was it that we do not have the personnel in the first team, even when everyone is fit, to be a back-up for Arteta? No one else can take this accolade other than the management. It’s mismanagement that could have easily been avoided.

That was what lead to Villa’s equaliser as well. There were simply no one who was aware of the situation leading up to Agbonlahor’s run straight at our goal. Koscielny sensed the danger and had to come out to block, thus leaving the gap behind to be exploited. For all the qualities that Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey possess, they are the players to depend on to slot in for Arteta, even for one match. That’s not forgetting the players ball watching after Wojciech Szczesny made the initial penalty save from Christian Benteke’s shot.

After the match, Wilshere asked for the fans to keep backing the team. Not something that is easy to do when the players act/played like they did. When Villa broke away to score the 3rd goal, just have a look at Theo Walcott. Nearest to the Villa player, didn’t even bother to follow or track back. Left us horrendously exposed at the back. It’s a bit hypocritical for the players to call for relentless backing when they failed to play at a 100%.

After the bright start of taking the lead after just 6 minutes through Olivier Giroud, we faded. If the players can explain how we turned from dominating the match to dropping off the pace to allowing Villa back into the match, then I’d be willing to listen. We had them on the ropes in the opening period of the first half but just couldn’t maintain that throughout the match. We had chances to come back into the match, especially Tomas Rosicky’s 2 one-on-ones in the second half. Neither effort deserve any praise.

Now, the injuries are piling up. Bacary Sagna had a nasty fall, Kieran Gibbs left the pitch bleeding, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain must have picked up something because he didn’t appear for the second half and there were a few player hobbling or limping towards the end of the match. With the matches coming thick and fast, this latest twist to the tale will force the management’s hands to go into the transfer market with a higher sense of urgency.

Why does it take a demoralising defeat like this to make the people in charge realise and understand the shortcomings of the team, when that much is known to everyone else who watches football?

That is not a quote from anyone. That is what I thought. But I’m sure that I’m not the only one thinking that. We’ve continued to shoot ourselves in the foot, knowing full well what could have been done to ensure that we never get to this situation. Year on year, it feels like the same thing. Something has got to give.

Not good enough Arsenal, not good enough.