A lack of signings is not why we lost to Aston Villa

If only it was as simple as blaming our shortcomings on a lack of new faces. I would actually be a much happier Gooner if all our problems could be solved by signing a few big cheques and bringing in three or four top drawer players.

Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, Saturday’s debacle wasn’t just down to Wenger’s failure to strengthen his young, mediocre squad over the past three months. Of course better players are needed, but the main reasons we lost were the exact same ones that cost us dear on many occasions last season:

1) Wenger’s failure to motivate his players properly for matches against ‘smaller’ sides
2) Our defensive vulnerability all over the pitch, not just amongst the back four, which stems from the manager’s apparent disdain for the defensive side of the game.

Let’s face it, we shouldn’t need Higuain, Cesar and Gustavo to beat an Aston Villa side who narrowly avoided relegation last season. As mediocre as we are compared to previous Arsenal teams, this current crop still had enough talent to win this match comfortably. All that was needed was an effective gameplan and a focused, determined performance.

Instead we got the complete opposite. It was Villa who looked as though they’d worked hard on tactics all week while Arsenal just turned up and passed the ball about a bit, waiting to be given the three points at the end.

Once again Wenger failed to extract the necessary performance from his troops. They lack concentration against so-called lesser teams, although there was nothing ‘lesser’ about Villa’s excellent, committed performance yesterday. After taking an early with a smartly finished goal from Giroud the boys in red and white seemed surprised that Villa managed to equalise and completely lost their rhythym thereafter. This is a failing that has happened time and time again in the last few seasons and has never been properly addressed — I doubt it ever will be under the current manager.

Wenger under pressureWhen Arsenal went on that creditable if unspectacular run at the end of last season, they were focused and determined. The defenders had taken it upon themselves to have an emergency meeting after the humiliating defeat at White Hart Lane and tightened up considerably. Yesterday, that focus had gone. It was the same old casual Arsenal making the same kind of sloppy mistakes that saw us lose to Blackburn, Bradford, Norwich, Swansea etc.

We also witnessed a complete lack of defensive awareness in midfield, which has been a problem since Wenger bit Barcelona’s hand off for the £15m they offered for Song. Arteta does his best but is not really suited to a defensive midfield role. He had been the boy with his finger in the dyke last season, but without him the midfield was an ineffective shield for our static defence.

Villa’s first goal highlighted this perfectly. Agbonlahor picked up the ball near the halfway line and drifted forward past Wilshere with ease, the latter failing to even get a tackle in. Suddenly he only had Koscielny between him and Szczesny and when the Frenchman made a half-hearted effort to nick the ball, Agbonlahor nutmegged him and the reckless Pole came steaming out of goal to bring him down.

A proper defensive midfielder wouldn’t have allowed Agbonlahor to get to Koscielny so easily. I don’t blame Ramsey or Wilshere, who were the designated central midfielders, I blame Wenger for setting up his team with such little protection for the back four. In fact he has set up his squad like that, with Frimpong the only recognised defensive midfielder and Arteta the only other person who can play there with any sort of competence.

The second goal stemmed from one of many careless moments from Arsenal players as Cazorla dallied and was caught in possession allowing Villa another opportunity to counter. This time Koscielny showed Agbonlahor away from goal but then betrayed his reckless nature by diving in unnecessarily to give away a penalty. It looked harsh until Alan Shearer showed a replay on Match of the Day that showed Koscielny clipping the Villa striker’s back leg just before he played the ball and, tough as it is to accept, a penalty was the correct decision.

A few minutes later Koscielny lost his head as he went in late on Wiemann. Even though he didn’t connect, he flung out an arm and caught the Austrian as he went past him. It was an act of stupidity probably not deserving of a second yellow, but why give the referee a decision to make at all? For all his excellent qualities Koscielny lacks composure and that cost us again yesterday.

We still forced a couple of good chances to equalise, but Luna raced away on the break to finish us off and provoke entirely justifiable booing and angry chants of “Spend some fu***ng money!” from the home faithful who had once again been misled all summer by Wenger and Gazidis.

My point is that what we saw wasn’t anything new, it was the same old problems that blighted us last season. Don’t blame the referee as Wenger has sought to do — he may have made a few poor decisions but that was not the reason we played so poorly. A few better players may see some improvement, but the fundamental failings that are inherent in a modern Wenger side will remain. Until Wenger addresses the way his team approaches matches and defends as a unit, the personnel is largely irrelevant and we will never make the progress necessary to win trophies again.

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  1. ThomasAbbott

    Madness to suggest we didn’t need new faces. The only reason we failed is due to the lack of depth in our team… Yes our defence faltered but that is simply due to the lack of holding midfielder. The two CB were completely exposed, this is nothing new at the Arsenal.

    How do you know what pre match motivation is used?

    Our squad is thread bare and after Saturdays horror show, who would want to join a “sinking ship”.

    Another great season ahead.

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  2. AusGoon

    Agree 99% I also believe the players should be able to get themselves motivated, They don’t want to put their collective foot on the neck of the opposition when they have the opportunity.

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  3. Dean Cartwright

    This is far and away the best post mortem of Saturday’s home reversal that I have read.

    Yes, we need quality new arrivals at the club, no one could or would deny that, but the loss to Aston Villa was down to so much more than the lack of summer arrivals.

    We were well beaten by a team that on the day were our superiors in virtually every position, a team that was well set up, were tactically aware, and fully commited to the cause.

    They deserved their victory, and blaming poor refereeing decisions and/or a lack of new faces is merely an attempt to avoid the obvious.

    In Brad Guzan they possessed a competent goalkeeper, while Delph in midfield had the sort of influence that is all too often missing from Jack’s game. Up front their lively trio of Benteke, Agbonlahor and Weimann caused us countless problems, just as they had done on their previous visit to The Emirates.

    Hopefully this sound beating will act as a major wake-up call for Wenger and the Arsenal hierarchy. Things are far from as they should be, and sadly the arrival of two or three new faces wont in itself correct all of our failings.

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  4. Philo

    Nice to see an Arsenal fan accepting that a poor performance from the team, along with a good performance from Villa, was the reason for Arsenal’s worst opening day home result for years. I couldn’t believe the number of injuries and frankly the lack of energy in the Arsenal legs – it’s the first match of the season, players should be able to keep running for 90minutes – as the Villa players did.

    Maybe the injuries are unlucky, but there needs to be some serious questions asked about preseason preparations. As a Villa fan, I was delighted to see the strength and pace that the players had. Wenger has often bemoaned teams who ‘out-muscle’ Arsenal (Stoke City seem to be the Wenger’s no.1 enemy) and this was reflected in the petulance on the pitch.

    You say don’t blame lack of signings, but then highlight Arsenal’s need for a defensive midfielder, call the goalkeeper ‘hapless’ and lay out the faults of the first choice defenders. Surely with a suspension and several more injuries throughout the team, Wenger will have to buy – the problem is other teams know this and will be able to charge a premium. Again, I look at the way Villa and Paul Lambert has done business and can’t help smile – ok, I’ve barely heard of any of the players, but we’ve had the whole preseason to get to know them and, more importantly, for them to become part of the squad – Luna even managed a debut goal.

    I expect Arsenal to sign 3 or 4 players in the next couple of weeks, but that may be too late to save the start of the season – fans will have to hope its not too late for achieving a top 4 finish

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  5. reg

    working day and night this transfer window? thats a lot of days and nights wasted.

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  6. indian gooner

    I blame Wenger for this. For the last 4 years he has bred imbeciles in the team. Buying the likes of silvestre,squillaci,park,chamakh,bendtner has to have an effect on the rest. They always say take the rotten apple out of the basket to save the other good ones. Instead he went and bought more of them. Only after knowing that his head would be on the line did he even consider writing them off. Even now we have the douchebag bendtner on our books, happy to collect wages and pay fines at leisure. If wenger bred this level of mediocrity by claiming that we were achieving great things by getting 4th,why would the cescs and persies of the football world want to stay here? They left and i dont hold any grudges against them. I hold it against the imbecile fans who have blindly supported wenger when it is clear that he lacks tactical nous(bayern home last year, milan away the year before are all prime examples of this) and seems to take everyone for granted. The emperor has new clothes? The emperor is naked…
    The earlier we get rid of him, the better it is for the club’s future.Get someone like laudrup or klopp in. Continue like this and we wont even make it top 4 this year.

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  7. James

    I dont think Arsenal fans should panic just yet. Villa are a lot better than most are giving them credit for and caught Arsenal off guard. They’ll beat a lot of teams this year and finish in the top 8.

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  8. r.iris

    I do not understand this attitude of “why give the referee a decision to make at all?”, aren’t they paid to do exactly that ?? . It was the ref who cost us the game, the third goal came about because we pushed too many players forward, why did that happen , because ref decided that when vlaar was already on a booking a professional foul on wilshre only demanded a free kick , but when it was koscielny it deemed a second booking. This left us short of players and we were not able to cover in the back when we went for the second goal and need I remind you we came close once saved on to the post from santi’s effort and rosicky looping one over. Had it been 11 against 11 we could’ve had the game or atleast a draw.

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  9. Ogban

    It’s all down to lack of signings. There is little competition for places. Some players were clearly not fully match fit and yet played the full game. Players were played out of position. One could just go on and on…….

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  10. alana

    I agree with the post. Its the way wenger set up the squad. For god sake the team has no pattern of play giroud was isolated no pressing from the midfielders, also ramsey was just roaming around I can’t really figure out his role that day. No protection for the back four and overall the team lacks physical strength.the main problem is tactics rather than new faces. The adition of fellaini or fabregas won’t solve the situation unless wenger change his flexible approach on games.

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  11. VillaFan

    I think part of your problem is looking down on teams such as Villa as a ‘Smaller Side’.

    For 3 out of the previous four seasons Villa have been badly managed and deserved their low league placing but they were never a smaller side.

    Last season was a clear the decks and lay new foundations. It nearly cost us our Premiership membership btu survived we did. It also built a team ready to take the next step this season.

    The players learnt from last season not to give up. A Goal done after five mins pick yourself up and ‘Go Again’. Villa might not have the ‘special’ players Arsenal have but they have a Team Spirit and a will to have a go. I do not mind losing as long as they have a go and do their best.

    Arsenal are missing that heart. Get at Arsenal and they can be rattled. On the radio a comment was made the Arsenal Fans booed every time Villa made a tackle as if they shouldn’t dare. Arsenal have to face fact you need to mix the pretty passing with a bit of Steel.

    Stop looking down on other teams and be offended when they do all they can to stop you. Your Team needs to come out and match fire with fire and if you contain that class you keep telling us about 9/10 times you will succeed.

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    • Brian Waldron

      As a Arsenal fan I can only agree with you. We lack heart and cannot be “physical’ when we need it. The club needs a season to rebuild itself and to get rid of the manager and all the deadwood as Villa did. Once again ,well done to Villa!

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      • VillaFan

        Arsenal just stopped moving on a few years ago. This was typical Villa behaviour.

        Villa would get a useful squad together and then think the job was done and not buy that extra player to help them improve.

        Arsenal over past few seasons have been plugging gaps with cheaper replacements. When Wenger first arrived no one really knew about say the French Market so he was able to cherry pick the best talent unopposed. Now everyone has scouts out and about all over Europe.

        And forget what Rogers say Arsenal still have class (especially compared to Liverpool who are truly classless) but they are living off reputation a bit too much

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  12. Brian Waldron

    Its a given that Arsenal were outplayed completely by Aston Villa. This was evident on the pitch on Saturday by the manner in which they gave us a hiding. We have fans and some of the management blaming the referee, but thats a lame excuse as he was bad for both teams. Arsenal lack the mental and physical strength to be a competitive force in the premier league. Our squad lacks depth and is full of dead wood who earn massive wages for doing nothing ie. Diaby,not physically strong enough. Bentner, not good enough , and then players like Walcott,not man enough and acts like a spoiled child when things dont go his way. We need a clear out from top to bottom and need to build a squad who want to wear ther Arsenal shirt with pride and determination, and who will not give up the fight ,even when losing, not like Walcott on Saturday. The rebuilding must start with the manager who cannot attract the classy players as he has no ambitions for the club to suceed, he celebrated 4 th place as a achievement last year?

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  13. Dexy

    spot on. on MOTD2 last night they showed quite possibly the worse piece of defending ever to grace the Premier League, Arsenal v Everton 2011. Exactly the same happened on Saturday for the 3rd goal. Which shows, we have learnt nothing. And under Wenger nothing is being done. The word procrastination springs to mind.

    Yep, we need 3 or 4 signings. but our inept ability to defend as a team once again cost us. Lose on Wednesday and hopefully the board will start to draw up a list of names for Wenger Replacements. Jürgen Klopp would be a good start!!!

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  14. Tom

    Refreshing to finally see some Arsenal fans that actually understand what went on the other day.

    Villa have been on top 6 form for the last 11 games. Something clicked in March and we finally became a team. We’re also a lot more than just Benteke, who had a pretty quiet game (pens aside) but we still looked threatening. We actually didn’t play to our best but we were up for the fight and I don’t think Arsenal were.

    Whether that was because of a lack of confidence and nervousness with the atmosphere, a lack of fitness, a lack of belief in their team mates I’m not sure. But they are not bad players. I had a look at your form at the end of last season…sensational! 14 wins from 20 in all competitions, only lost 1 of the last 16 league games. The talent is there.

    You lacked a lot in squad depth and injuries to bench players, bur who was missing that would have started the game? Arteta Monreal Vermaelen. Those that played need to step it up, they need help and competition from new signings. I wish you luck for the season and hope you can turn it around.

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  15. Son Lyme

    I’m an old Villa boy and was at the game. Let’s get this straight – that the ref was a bit whistle happy and waved too many cards about is agreed – but he was a muppet for both sides. Simply blaming the ref is a cop-out.

    Villa won this game because they wanted it more. Last year they would have competed for a bit then given up(as they in fact did) – but Villa’s young side have grown stronger from the batterings they took last time – while Arsenal appear to have stood still.

    Let’s be clear here – Villa weren’t at their best on Saturday – but they still won. They fought and battled and didn’t panic – whereas for Arsenal only Rosicky really showed any desire or guile.

    Villa may not be a glamour club with a sugar daddy but it is a club that has a clear idea of who they are and where they’re going. This young team will wup a few more big boys before the season is out and they could in fact have Arsenal a big favour.

    When is it you’d like to know you haven’t got enough quality in your squad – before the window closes or after? Imagine Villa had rolled over as they did last year and Arsenal won 3-1. You’d all be beaming and bigging it up – but the rot at the heart of your once great team would remain – only to be found out when it mattered most.

    I’ve admired Wenger’s Arsenal for years. He has been a blessing and your boys have played some of the finest football the UK has ever seen. The whole move thing threw a spanner in the works – and giving up RVP was a sign of the inertia that move caused.

    You need to start over – and it’s not a case of one or two star players. You need to show patience and let Wenger do it his way. Otherwise you become like a Man City or a Chelsea or a Real Madrid. Lots of money and very little class. Changing managers every 18 months is madness. Wenger is a genius – you may not see it right now – and being upset is normal. But these clowns calling for him to go need slapping down. Otherwise you’ll go the way of Liverpool and enter years of managed decline. Chopping and changing – making the occasional big splash signing – but not producing talent anymore – slowly declining.

    You gave us Bergkamp, Henry, Viera, RVP, and there are more to come. Now’s the time to show your true colours gooners. When it’s hard and you feel like smashing the place up. Stay calm – stay true – and you will emerge all the stronger. Trust me – I know all about tight owners and bad managers – thankfully for my lot that is all in the past. Don’t let it become your future.

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  16. Gooner Steve

    It’s nice to see so many articulate comments and I like reading the views from opposition supporters, so thanks for posting Villa fans. I would’ve written more about how well Villa played (somebody did it very eloquently in the comments) but my main focus was on Arsenal’s failings.

    It seems one or two may have misconstrued my article — we DEFINITELY need more quality signings, but my point was there are other problems at Arsenal that a few big transfers won’t fix and it’s important people don’t lose sight of this amid the hysterical baying for the manager to buy.

    Personally I don’t trust Wenger to spend our money wisely anymore. The last time he went on a deadline day trolley dash we ended up with Park, Benayoun, Santos, Arteta and Mertesacker — ’nuff said.

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  17. Gunner Analysis

    Having analysed the match, the reason why we lost is because of the 2 midfield players. It was obvious from the start that without the experienced and tactically sound arteta there will be no one covering the back four. Wilshire is very naive in defending and ramsey is all over the pitch.
    The first goal came when wilshire left his zone to press agbonlahor only to easily be turned and left for dead, which in turn left the defense open and leaving koscielny to move out of his position and commit himself into a challenge.
    The second was a result of both midfielder caught high up the pitch on the counter , without one staying futher back to cover the defense yet again. Carzola was at fault for loosing the ball but why is both midfielder so high up the pitch…wouldnt happen if arteta was playing.
    This tactical naivity together with the fact that wilshire dribbles a lot result is slow switch of play and a lot going through the middle of the pitch.

    In conclusion. While arteta is out… we need a new midfielder. Not necessarily a defensive one but one who is adept tactically to spread balls.. give simple passes and keep the shape of the midfield.

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  18. Nico

    Agree with you Steven to a point – as he did motivate th team in the last 12 matches at the end of last season however it doesn’t ta ke away the fact hat he is not up to speed with the modern game now. The whole board have no idea how to negotiate nor does Wenger and really he shouldn’t be involved with negotiating – he should just tell that Bold fuck Gazidis who he wants in and Gazidis should go get the player and not fly on holiday or go with the squad to Vietnam etc. the club is in crisis and heading to a take over – I hope! I believe he is past his sell by date now so too the board – fresh blood and soon please.

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  19. Oguntuase Amox

    No matter which side of the divide you are, Wenger and Arsenal had again proved that they cannot be written off. Might be City lost to Cardiff because the team did not recruit new faces? I will agree that Arsenal performance against Villa was not at it’s best but the referee ensured that we were not given the chance at all, bad, rough, and crushing tackles on our players, dubious penalties for mere simulations and a wicked red card, one would expect the players to be fed up. The same team beat Fernabache home and away, disciplined Fulham and outclassed Tothenham that spent over £100m to strengthen. For God”s sake what do you people want from the manager again? I am sure many of you are failures in your private lives. Let reasonable fans support the msnager and the team but let the idiots decamp to City, Chelsesa or Tothenham that had money to spend .

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    • Gooner Steve

      Wow, you are so misinformed. Do you really think we have had no money to spend for the last couple of years? Read this article from July 2011 (yes, that’s two years ago):

      Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis guarantees manager Arsene Wenger has ‘substantial’ funds to spend

      And guess what happened that summer? We sold Fabregas and Nasri, despite our ‘substantial’ funds, and signed Gervinho.

      Read this and educate yourself:

      The truth about stadium debt and Arsenal spending

      Here’s a summation for you:

      “Contrary to what you have believed about the stadium debt, Arsenal have been in a good position to buy world class players over the last 2 or 3 years. Instead of buying 2 or 3 top players every year, which would have bolstered our squad tremendously, given us a good chance to win silverware, given our existing world class players a reason to stay (RvP, Fabregas), increase fan support and ultimately make even more revenue, Arsene decided to go the cheaper route by buying 6 or 7 cheap players most of whom have ended up as deadwood, all the while sucking the life out of the wage bill and generally having little or no contribution to our club.”

      Thank goodness that looks like changing now. However, the Ozil signing doesn’t wipe this mismanagement from the history books much as blind Arsene worshippers like you would love it to.

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