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Arsenal vs. Aston Villa: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 17:  Santi Cazorla of Arsenal and Fabian Delph of Aston Villa battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on August 17, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Max TowleAnalyst IAugust 17, 2013

Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa (Giroud 6', Benteke 22', 61', Luna 85')

Arsenal's season began in horrific style Saturday as Arsene Wenger's side fell 3-1 to an inspired Aston Villa.

Things appeared rosy early on as Olivier Giroud slotted home a low Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross in the sixth minute.

The Frenchman's finish was unerring and hinted at greater things to come for the Gunners:

It's a superb goal for the Gunners: Rosicky puts the ball wide for A O-C, he crosses and near post Giroud sweeps home. No chance for Guzan.

— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) August 17, 2013

However, less than 20 minutes later, the home side's fragility at the back was exposed by a determined Gabby Agbonlahor.

The forward sprinted through the Arsenal back line before being felled by a slow-to-react Wojciech Szczesny:

If Wenger buys someone who can play as a DM just in case Arteta gets injured, we wouldn't have let Agbonlahor run through our midfield.

— Kash (@Cathorla) August 17, 2013

Christian Benteke's soft penalty was saved by the keeper, but the Belgian striker was quick to nod the ball home on the rebound.

The second half ratcheted up the drama when Laurent Koscielny was deemed to have tripped Agbonlahor.

The decision was a harsh one, but Benteke made little mistake with his second spot-kick of the game.

Moments later, Koscielny received his marching orders with a second yellow card for again felling Agbonlahor.

The foul was innocuous, leaving Arsenal's players rightly aggrieved:

And now a red card for Koscielny, who should never have been booked the first time. Hideous refereeing. #afc

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) August 17, 2013

With five minutes to play, debutant Antonio Luna burst clear on a counter attack and slotted the ball past Szczesny with ease.

With this third goal, a significant portion of the home support began to turn on Wenger:

Everyone needs to chill man. first game of the season.. Obviously Wenger needs to spend.. Therefore boos were needed. Simple

— • Toyin (@ToyTweets_) August 17, 2013

The loss further highlights the need for the Gunners boss to strengthen his side in the transfer window.

There are 37 games left in the season, but another slow start may be the final straw for those looking for an excuse to bemoan the state of affairs at Emirates Stadium.

 

Key Player Grades

Gabby Agbonlahor: A

The Aston Villa forward was a buzzing threat throughout Saturday's game.

His sheer pace gave the Gunners' back line nightmares, exposing the fragility of his opponents' tactical rigidity.

Agbonlahor has always been a player capable of greatness, though he has never sustained his form throughout an entire campaign.

 

Jack Wilshere: B

It is always good to see a fully fit Jack Wilshere in action, even if he was unable to have much of a creative effect against Aston Villa.

His passing was crisp, his movement adroit, though he was perhaps overshadowed by the more penetrative Tomas Rosicky.

It didn't help that at times it seemed like Wilshere was being kicked all over the park by some sturdy Villa tackles.

 

Christian Benteke: A-

Christian Benteke was one of the revelations of last season. He continued his prolific ways with a double on Saturday.

The Belgian striker held the ball up well during the game, as Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann did the running alongside him.

 

What's Next?

Arsenal travel to Turkey to take on Fenerbahce in their next fixture, while Aston Villa make the trip to Chelsea in the Premier League.

 

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