An opening day loss for Arsenal isn’t something new, but Arsene Wenger thought the last person who’d fail him in yet another season that sets off in the wrong way will be Petr Cech, having a miserable debut for the Gunners.
Not that Arsenal were that great in the 2-0 home loss to West Ham anyway. The same problems of shakiness and softness in the back, combined with the lack of a more physical and imposing defensive midfielder made West Ham look like the aggressors, having no problem generating turnovers in dangerous areas for Arsenal, who were struggling to move the ball forward where their quality players could show their superiority.
Wenger made a foolish excuse at the end of the match about West Ham being better prepared than his players because of their Europa League encounters. He forgot to mention, or simply didn’t look up, that West Ham had a completely different side on the pitch when they were knocked out last week. The Hammers don’t care about the minor European competition. With matches played on Thursday, there’s just too much money in the Premier League to risk getting relegated for this competition.
Francis Coquelin who was fantastic in the second half of last season struggled. The trio of Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were left without a supply of balls and couldn’t play fast combinations of passes to open up the tight West Ham defense. Olivier Giroud looked redundant in the way the match developed, and the introduction of Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez seemed to be a tad late, although Sanchez isn’t completely fit.
Wenger needed speed and to play the width of the pitch in the situation his team fell into. Without the players who do it better than anyone on his team for most of the match, Arsenal were always battling the deficit with one hand tied behind their back. It’s not a disaster or an end to their title race after just 90 minutes, but it does show that mistakes of the past which have been pointed out by almost everyone haven’t been addressed or keep popping up under the hands of a manager who really should be doing better than that.
Sometimes, it’s beyond tactics. Cech is presumed to bring the toughness and experience Arsenal usually lack, but he was the one who made the crucial mistakes which led to the goals, especially in the first one. Maybe Jose Mourinho, like with his sales of Juan Mata and David Luiz, knew something others didn’t? More likely than not it’s just a bad day, something Cech has more and more of in recent years, but shouldn’t be someone Wenger is specifically worried about.