Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna (90+3), Koscielny, Mertesacker (c), Gibbs (28), Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain (46), Walcott, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson (28), Frimpong, Cazorla (46), Gnabry, Podolski (90+3), Sanogo
Arsenal got their new season off to a disastrous start with a controversial, but ultimately deserved, 3-1 loss to Aston Villa at the Emirates this afternoon.
The Gunners started brightly as you would have expected on the first day and got a quick goal when Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in the 6th minute.
After great work deep in our half from Jack Wilshere, Arsenal broke down the left hand side, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain squared it to Giroud on the edge of the 6-yard box and his first time flicked finish went in at the far post to make it 1-0.
Poor Villa play presented Oxlade-Chamberlain a chance to shoot from the edge of the box but saw it blocked, before Giroud had a difficult header which drifted well wide.
But Villa were level in the 22nd minute when the visitors were awarded a penalty. Gabi Agbonlahor was allowed to run through the Arsenal defence and when he pushed it past Szczesny, and took a dive over the keeper. The ref played on and allowed Villa to have a shot on goal, and after that went wide he pointed to the spot.
Szczesny saved the initial spot kick but it bounced back to Benteke who got lucky and nodded it home to equalise. 1-1.
And moments later things got worse when we lost Kieran Gibbs after a clash of heads saw the left-back bleeding heavily from a head wound. Carl Jenkinson came on at right back with Bacary Sagna moving to left back.
Referee Anthony Taylor was not the most popular man in the ground anyway, giving little to Arsenal, but when Jack Wilshere was flattened by Ron Vlaar, and reacted a bit, he found himself booked along with the Villa man. Ludicrous.
Theo Walcott almost took advantage of poor Villa defending but the visitors got it clear, before Wojciech Szczesny went on a crazy walkabout having come out to clear a Villa through ball.
He headed it up in the air, then made a tackle – all while miles out of his box and on a yellow card – before scrambling back to push a long range effort around the post. Almuniarrifc.
The referee continued to ensure all headlines would be about him after booking a Villa player when he was clearly fouled by Oxlade-Chamberlain, and the teams went in level at the break.
Santi Cazorla replaced the Ox at half-time, worryingly it was more than likely because he took a knock in the incident which saw the Villa man booked, and with a squad already depleted, this would be bad news indeed.
Good play from Theo Walcott in the 51st minute put Giroud through on goal, although he couldn’t quite get the ball out from under his feet to get a shot away, and moments later the Frenchman put Tomas Rosicky through on goal. The Czech international should have scored but blazed his shot over the bar.
It could have proved very costly as less than 60 seconds later Wilshere lost the ball in midfield, and Fabian Delph smacked a shot off the post with Szczesny beaten.
But Villa were ahead shortly afterwards. Santi Cazorla lost the ball in midfield, Agbonlahor drove into the Arsenal box but was stopped by a great Koscielny tackle – however, the referee awarded another penalty which Benteke scored at the first attempt. 1-2.
And the referee made sure he’d be the one around whom the the narrative would revolve when he sent off Laurent Koscielny for a 2nd bookable offence in the 67th minute. It was more ludicrous refereeing, especially when Ron Vlaar was let oof an obvious 2nd yellow a few minutes later.
Tomas Rosicky had a good chance to equalise after some brilliant build-up play but Guzan came out quickly to smother the shot. Brad Guzan saved Villa in the 78th minute when the ball came to Cazorla in the box. He shot into the ground, the ball bounced up and Guzan pushed it onto the bar.
Benteke almost got his hat-trick, firing wide with just Szczesny to beat, before Anthony Taylor ignored Jack Wilshere’s demands for a penalty when he was blocked off in the box.
As Arsenal pressed for an equaliser Villa made the game safe. A corner was cleared, the left back Luna was clean through on goal and he spanked it past Szczesny to make it 3-1 to the visitors.
The Emirates was filled with chants of “Spend some f*cking money”, and who can argue with that?
As the game moved into injury time, it looked as if Bacary Sagna picked up a nasty injury after landing badly, and the last thing Arsenal need is another problem to a defender having lost Gibbs and with Monreal and Vermaelen injured.
In the end, as bad as the referee was, and he was really, really bad, it was the disastrous day a disastrous summer brought about.
Horrible all around.