LONDON: Arsenal ended last season with a run of 10 games unbeaten to secure a return to the Champions League so one, opening-match 3-1 defeat by Aston Villa cannot be considered a crisis.
Arsene Wenger’s men were unfortunate with a couple of the refereeing decisions by Anthony Turner. But thousands of fans were streaming home long before the final whistle because defeat fed into a long-running narrative of concern over transfers.
The problem is clear: Arsenal are an efficiently-run club, one of the richest in European football and have an admitted £70m to spend. But, the over-optimistic bid for Liverpool’s Luis Suarez apart, Wenger has shown little inclination to buy. Arsenal have been linked with Wayne Rooney but that has been mere ‘[news]paper talk.’
Wenger tried to explain the conundrum after hearing his team booed off at full-time. He said: “We were in the market before this game and we are in the market after this game. We are there to spend money. If we do not spend then it is because we do not find the players.
“People always say: ‘Buy players, buy players.’ When you ask them: ‘Tell me who?’ It becomes more problematic.
“Of course it hurts me to disappoint people who love the club. I’m here to make the fans happy and when I do not I can only say: ‘Sorry, come back,’ and try to make them happy in the next game.”
The only arrival so far has been 20-year-old striker Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer from Auxerre. He sat the bench, judged unable to offer an improvement. Much the same applied to Lukas Podolski who appeared only in the last minute as a desperation substitute for fullback Bacary Sagna.
Olivier Giroud gave Arsenal an early lead but Christian Benteke equalised with a header after Wojciech Szczesny saved his initial penalty. Benteke, too much of a handful for Per Mertesacker all through the game, then put the visitors 2-1 ahead from another, more contentious penalty.
Laurent Koscielny was shown a yellow card for the penalty, even though replays showed he played the ball. Minutes later Koscielny he was sent off for a second yellow card. Antonio Luna, one of six new signings by Villa manager Paul Lambert, then scored the visitors third goal.
Arsenal have no time to catch their breath: On Wednesday they will be tested by Fenerbahce in Turkey in the Champions League.
** Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers hinted that Luis Suarez will be staying after the 1:0 win over Stoke which the suspended Uruguayan watched from the stands with his family.
The Premier League’s first goal of the season from Daniel Sturridge and a late penalty save by new keeper Simon Mignolet from Jonathan Walters gave Liverpool a winning start against Mark Hughes’s new club. They were also lucky early on when Robert Huth shot against a post.
Suarez wants Champions League football but has three years remaining on his contract. But he waved to fans from out on the pitch before the game while wearing a Liverpool tracksuit.
Rodgers said: “He is a part of our team, part of our club. I am very satisfied with the way everything has been resolved.”
** Rickie Lambert’s wonderful week continued as he converted a 90th-minute penalty to give Southampton a 1:0 win at West Bromwich. In midweek