Arsenal scored early but defensive mistakes in the box cost them as Christian Benteke buried two penalties and gave Aston Villa a shock 3-1 win on the road at the Emirates.
Olivier Giroud began the scoring in just the 6th minute when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sprinted down the touchline before cutting back behind the defense and hitting Giroud who was free in the middle. The French striker used just one touch to direction the ball perfectly to the far post past Brad Guzan.
Guzan barely escaped a chance for Arsenal to go 2 up when the American spilled the ball outside of the net, and it fell to Theo Walcott with an empty net but his cross to the front of goal found a Villa defender.
Christian Benteke then pulled Villa level when Wojciech Szczesny was forced to bring down Gabriel Agbonlahor in the box. Agbonlahor shot a ball ahead through the defense, and trailing his touch all by himself, Szczseny had no choice. Szczesny saved Benteke’s original penalty, but the ball came back to the Belgian and he headed in the rebound. It was a superb performance by Agbonlahor on the day, who ran the thin Arsenal defense ragged.
Szczesny did exactly the same as Guzan before in the 36th minute, deciding to play as an outfield player outside of the box and almost allowed Villa to pull ahead, but the defenders held in time for the Polish keeper to make his way back and make a pretty-looking diving save.
Arsenal continued to build from Jack Wilshire in the midfield in the second half as the game got chippy. Yellow cards began to fly, and Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny brought down Agbonlahor to give away a second penalty. Benteke buried this one for the lead. Arsenal will believe they’ve been harshly judged, as Koscielny went in hard but did get a foot on the ball before bringing Agbonlahor down.
Koscielny then had insult added to injury when he barely made contact with Andreas Weimann but the winger went down anyways and drew Koscielny’s second yellow. Arsenal still managed to keep attacking. Santi Cazorla banged a 79th minute shot into the ground and it came up and ricocheted off the crossbar. Bacary Sagna went down hard in added time, making Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s headaches even worse for after the match.
When Arsenal threw everything forward, they continued to come close, but it bit them in the end as a counter fell to Antonio Luna who buried the one-on-one breakaway past Szczesny to secure the result on his club debut.
The Arsenal fans came down hard on Wenger at the end of the match, berating him for having made no moves so far in the transfer window.
Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny; Bacary Sagna (Lukas Podolski, 90′), Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs (Carl Jenkinson, 28′); Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshire; Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Santi Cazorla, 45′), Aaron Ramsey; Olivier Giroud.
Aston Villa: Brad Guzan; Nathan Baker (Ciaran Clark, 17′), Ron Vlaar, Antonio Luna, Matthew Lowton; Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph; Andreas Weimann (Leandro Bacuna, 88′), Gabriel Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke.
Arsene Wenger: “I didn’t like the spirit with which he [Anthony Taylor] refereed this game,” Wenger fumed. “That for me is the most worrying thing, more than the decisions he made. I was quite amazed how stubborn his behaviour was through the whole game. I was really amazed. I can’t fault the spirit of the team. Everything went against us. Injuries, decisions and we had a bit of bad luck.”
Wenger: “I want our fans to be happy and proud of their team and when we lost at home, I just have to be sorry.”
Villa captain Ron Vlaar: “I thought maybe I could have got a second yellow but I was standing there and I couldn’t just disappear out of nothing. It’s a little bit silly to get two yellows for obstruction and the second yellow for Laurent Koscielny, I don’t know if that was one. But it’s his [Taylor’s] decision and that’s not the reason we won the game.”