Arsenal vs. Aston Villa: match report

This guy sucks at his job. - Clive Mason

Well that could have gone a lot better than it did, yes?

Arsenal dropped the first league match of the season, at home, to an energized Aston Villa side who started off slowly and then capitalized on a few crucial defending mistakes by Arsenal and some rather dubious officiating.  I say "dubious"  because I don't know if I can say "fucking shit officiating."  The loss left the stadium and the Arsenal supporters who filled it in a blind rage, as anger was directed at Arsene Wenger and the club's management for the edgy and complacent summer transfer market dealings and towards an official who looked well out of his place.

The match started out quickly as Arsenal moved and pass like a squad who felt comfortable with each other on the pitch, and it didn't take long for the Gunners to net a goal, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found Olivier Giroud with a perfect pass to the Frenchman's foot, who slotted the delivery past a helpless Brad Guzan in the 6th minute.  At the time, it appeared to be a harbinger of greater things to come, but of course life has a funny way of inducing heart attacks and strokes.

Then came a double-whammy wave of shit officiating and poor play that ended up costing Arsenal the match.  After fooling a normally-reliable but holy-jeez-are-you-ok Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel Agbonlahor was fouled in the box by a diving Wojciech Szczesny.  A penalty for sure, but Anthony Taylor allowed advantage to play on since the ball shot out to the right where it found Andi Weimann.  He collected the rebound, shot wide and then, amazingly, Taylor awarded both a penalty and a yellow card to Szczesny.  Belgian forward Christian Benteke stepped up to the spot as half the Arsenal squad on the pitch were losing their minds as they attempted to figure out Taylor's reasoning in his decision, and when order was somewhat-restored, he stepped up and headed his blocked penalty attempt home to equalize.

This is where we should have either turned our TV off and gone for a long walk instead, or just accept the fact that things were going to get ugly quickly.  Anthony Taylor, upon seeing the rebound fire off to Weimann, decided that the correct call was to award advantage.  There's no disputing that it was a penalty, but he had two choices to make: either call the penalty right as the foul occurred, or allow advantage.  He did the latter.  Because Weimann missed with his shot, awarded on advantage, it does not mean that Villa gets a second opportunity to convert for a goal.  Taylor thought otherwise.  That Arsene Wenger didn't run out on the pitch and beat the official over his head, repeatedly, with his water bottle is beyond me since I can think of other cherry-faced managers of the recent-past who would have burned down an entire city with the rage displayed and exhibited.

As the match wore on, the officiating from Taylor became even more insufferable.  In the 65th minute, Villa's Ashley Westwood fouled Jack Wilshere.  The ball bounced straight to Santi Cazorla, on for the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who looked to attack upon receiving the ball thinking Taylor's the type of official who allows advantages (and rightfully so).  However, Taylor stopped play, issued Westwood a yellow and allowed Villa to drop back to defend a free kick.  Santi's expression was one of disbelief, but of course, Arsenal were doing themselves no favors of their own; before this incident Tomas Rosicky, ten yards out and just the keeper to beat, shot his attempt a good 15 feet away from the upper-right corner of the goal, and shortly after Rosicky's attempt Olivier Giroud couldn't manage to get a decent shot off after being found in the box with his marker turned around and left needing a teammate in order to stop play.

Then Taylor decided his first penalty wasn't a good enough screw up and he seized upon the opportunity that was Laurent Koscielny's perfectly-timed tackle on Agbonlahor in the penalty box.  While there could be shouts that Koscielny's knee might - might - have clipped Benteke's back leg before tackling the ball, the tackle in this case was very much like typical tackling in the box in the EPL.  Tackling, mind you, that goes unpunished.  Yet Taylor, who was not all that close to the action, came running in after he blew his whistle stopping play, and pointed to the spot.  Koscielny smiled, hands on his waist, knowing the chop was on.  Benteke sent Szczesny the wrong way, and Villa were up a goal with 30 minutes to go.  Koscielny would be sent off a couple minutes later for a misplaced tackle that didn't seem too out of place given the rest of the match up till this point, and a later goal by Antonio Luna in the 84th minute sealed the match for the visitors.

All said, while Arsenal have their share of the blame in this disaster of a match - their play after the first penalty, the injuries to Kieran Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Bacary Sagna, the lack of depth issue coupled with no transfers in becoming a bigger part of the story with said injuries today and this past week to Mikel Arteta - the bigger story from today's match was Anthony Taylor completely being out of place on the pitch today while Arsenal struggled to create consistent goal-scoring opportunities when they needed them the most.  I truly hate pulling the "official was terrible" card, and again, Arsenal should be far from blameless in today's result, but if one were to thumb through their wallets in search of that ready-made excuse, they wouldn't get too much stick from others if they found this card and placed it in Taylor's front shirt pocket.

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