You know you’re having a dog day afternoon in Goonerville when there’s just no ducking the taunts of a mass clutch of Brummie Villans 15 minutes short of the final whistle.
It was to get worse – before it gets better for Arsenal. Antonio Luna’s 85th minute strike sealed Villa’s 3-1 win, giving their faithful all the license needed to gibe the home crowd – a good few of whom had by then already reached the Holloway Road, with the very opposite of mute mutterings the discussion en route.
At the final whistle, as sure as eggs are eggs, every cameraman inside the Emirates cut to the dejected hair flick from his forehead that’s become an all too familiar trait in Arsene Wenger’s times of trouble. The Villa comeback after Olivier Giroud’s 6th minute opener certainly had Arsenal in some. Or should that be some more?
The Gunners have taken up more column inches today with this performance – and all that it signifies – than had they eeked out a 2-1 victory. In the week they travel to Turkey to face Fenerbahce in their first leg Champion’s League qualifier, the squad will be short of the injured Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bacary Sagna and perhaps now more glaringly any big summer signings to speak of.
The wry smile on defender Laurent Koscielny’s bonce as he was booked for his lunge on Gabriel Agbonlahor – awarding Villa their second penalty of the match – just about surmised Arsenal’s current footing. Koscielny got plenty of the ball, yet more of the man.
During the summer, Arsenal got plenty of the headlines, yet none of the man – whether it be Luiz Gustavo, Gonzalo Higuain or Luis Suarez inclusively.
With a reported healthy £100 million-plus in the Gunners coffers, the unspendable must be burning a hole right through the pocket of Wenger’s Armani slacks.
He admitted his frustrations post-match by saying, “People say: ‘Buy players, buy players, buy players … ‘ But who? We analyse every single player in the world and work 24 hours a day for that. We are serious about it.”
Admitting that it would have been impossible to go out and buy players five minutes before the seasons opener – which Wenger did – is one thing. Trying to lure quality of any in the Gustavo-Higuain bracket will be nigh on impossible should they fail to qualify for the Champion’s League.
Should the home tie on 27 August be the night of a Turkish blood bath, few top drawers will come a-knockin at the Emirates door brimming to play before the 2 September transfer deadline. Even the January window will feel like a whole other prospect of woes, with Gunners fans fearing rival clubs will smell blood and be up for snatching their top players.
The passages of play and link ups between Giroud and Thomas Rosicky in the second half is one heartening positive for Arsenal. A fully fit Jack Wilshire is the other. Villa manager, Paul Lambert, called his Harlequins-styled team’s performance “incredible,” and his playmaker, Agbonlahor “unplayable.”
Keeping yesterday’s two-goal striker, Christian Benteke at the club, despite unwelcome speculation, may in time prove a better bit of business than anything Wenger can prize from just about anywhere in the coming weeks.
Both had Arsenal rattled for pace and strength, leading to the Gunners first opening day defeat in 20 seasons. Unfortunately for Arsenal, neither of them are for sale, despite the available millions.
There may be more fringe flicking and squeaky bum moments to come this season for Wenger and his followers respectively. Though if both can kept to a minimum the next two upcoming Wednesday evenings it might just spare Arsene some slack, Armani and otherwise.