Aston Villa beats Arsenal 3-1 in opener
Christian Benteke scored twice Saturday as Aston Villa stunned
Arsenal 3-1 at Emirates Stadium in their Premier League opener to
increase the pressure on manager Arsene Wenger to spend big in the
waning days of the transfer market.
Arsenal had a perfect start when Olivier Giroud scored in the
sixth minute, tapping in a pinpoint cross from Alex
Oxlade-Chamberlain from close range.
But it turned into a miserable afternoon for Arsenal after that,
as the Gunners ended up leaving the field to boos from its
frustrated fans – having also seen two defenders get injured and
another sent off to further deplete its already fragile
”We start a new season with a defeat at home,” Wenger said.
”It’s a massive blow.”
Benteke started the comeback in the 22nd after Wojciech Szczesny
brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor in the area. Szczesny saved
Benteke’s penalty, but the striker headed in his own rebound to
Villa were awarded a second penalty in the 61st when Laurent
Koscielny was adjudged to have brought down Agbonlahor, although
replays showed he made contact with the ball first. Benteke stepped
up to the spot again and made no mistake this time.
Wenger criticized referee Anthony Taylor’s performance, saying
he didn’t like the ”spirit” in which the game was officiated, and
the manager was especially perplexed about the second penalty
”The linesman said to me he didn’t give a penalty and he was at
the level of the tackle,” Wenger said. ”If the referee didn’t
give the penalty at the start, why did he give it after? It was
With Arsenal getting increasingly frustrated, Koscielny was then
given a second booking in the 67th for a foul on Andreas Weimann,
reducing the hosts to 10 men. The Gunners still pressed for an
equalizer, with Brad Guzan blocking a close-range shot from Rosicky
and substitute Santi Cazorla’s shot palmed onto the bar by the
But that exposed Arsenal at the back, and new signing Antonio
Luna scored on his Villa debut with a quick counterattack in the
85th minute to seal the victory.
Villa manager Paul Lambert was pleased with the win, but
stressed ”we have miles and miles to go.
”This has given us a great start to the season,” he said. ”I
think everyone thought we’d get no points from the first three
games” against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Luna’s goal capped a miserable day for Arsenal, which saw left
back Kieran Gibbs substituted in the first half with a bloody gash
to his forehead, and left back Bacary Sagna injured in added time
when he landed on his neck after somersaulting through the air in a
duel for the ball.
Emirates Stadium was more than half empty well before the final
whistle as fans expressed their displeasure with both Wenger and
”We want our fans to be happy. When you don’t achieve that, you
feel absolutely sorry and disappointment,” Wenger said. ”My job
is to make the fans happy.”
Wegner is under immense pressure to sign star players after
chief executive Ivan Gazidis promised in June to ”escalate”
spending in the summer transfer market. But Arsenal so far has
signed only one player, 20-year-old striker Yaya Sanogo, on a free
transfer from second-tier French club Auxerre.
Arsenal tried to lure Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid, but the
forward eventually signed for Napoli, while moves to buy striker
Luis Suarez have been rebuffed by Liverpool.
Wenger defended Arsenal’s transfer strategy, saying the club is
willing to spend big, but only for the right players. He also
stressed that ”until we buy players, we have to win” with the
current squad, which he said could have taken all three points
He vowed to remain active in the transfer window until it closes
on Sept. 2, saying ”we were on the market before the game, and
we’re on the market after the game.”
”If we don’t spend the money, (it’s because) we don’t find the
players,” Wenger said. ”I’m not the only one who works on
The club’s disappointments in the transfer market have been
compounded by a string of injuries to key players. Midfielder Mikel
Arteta may be out up to six weeks with a thigh injury, while
captain Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal (back), Abou Diaby
(knee) and midfielder Ryo Miyaichi (rib) are all sidelined.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced after halftime after appearing
to injure his left leg in a challenge with Luna. Villa center back
Nathan Baker also came off with an injury in the first half.
Wenger said Aaron Ramsey also picked up an ankle injury after
being kicked by a Villa player, and that Rosicky had an unspecified
The injury list is especially worrying since Arsenal heads into
the first leg of a vital Champions League playoff round at
Fenerbahce on Wednesday.