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View From The North Bank: Arsenal 1 Villa 3

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After the painful transfer tittle tattle and even more painful lack of transfer action, it was finally time for some football, although come 4.45pm most Gooners were left even more angry and frustrated.

Despite the lack of incomings, Arsenal entered this season as one of a handful of clubs with good odds to compete for the title. In fact Betfair’s betting news listed Arsenal with the 4th best odds overall at 14/1 (behind just Man. U, Chelsea, and Man. City). This has now increased to 21′s so if you’re still confident that Arsene will sign Suarez, Cabaye, a defender, a goalkeeper etc then that’s worth a punt with a view to lay if those odds shorten.

A poor start is by no means a death sentence in what amounts to a long season with ample opportunity for redemption, but Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa was not what any of us had in mind to kick off the League season.

Arsenal actually got out to a decent start, scoring the opener in the 6th minute. Oxlade-Chamberlain had a largely uncontested but still impressive attacking run down the left before crossing it in to Olivier Giroud, who was able to flick the ball neatly past Guzan. Unfortunately, that’s as good as it got.

The ensuing 10 minutes saw Arsenal’s Arteta-less midfield function fluidly, with the Ox and Rosicky switching between the centre and the left flank and Ramsey and Jack in the double pivot. Then the wheels fell off. The way in which Agbonlahor burst through the centre of Arsenal’s midfield was worrying, more so because of the exposure on the defence due to the porous midfield.

The second and third goals are more excusable given the contentious award of Villa’s second penalty and the fact that Arsenal were chasing an equaliser with 10 men when they were finished off on the break.

Despite what was right up there with the worst refereeing performances in living memory, Arsenal’s performance, though not as bad as many are making it out to be, was not good enough when looking to set the tone for the season.

Positives included a driving performance from Ramsey and some nice link up play from Giroud (although he needs to win more aerial battles for a man of his size). Rosicky provided some bursts in Arsenal’s often one-paced play – and should have had two goals from excellent chances created by his industrious play.

Chamberlain was very impressive before a knee injury forced him off and out until Christmas with damage to his ligaments to compound Arsenal’s misery.

The lack of activity or any semblance of a winning strategy off the field was mirrored on it and with a crucial Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce on Wednesday night, Arsenal are left thread bare, wounded and looking to strengthen quickly. This next 2 weeks could be the most vital of Wenger’s reign, on and off the field.