Two smartly taken opportunistic strikes either side of half time condemned a sluggish Arsenal to an opening premier league campaign fixture defeat on a sticky, hot August day in north London.
Having finished the previous season strongly and started pre season well very few Gooners would have predicted a loss to a mid table finishing team like Wham.
The mood was therefore suitably upbeat before the game as I took my seat in block 7 (one of the “unofficial” standing areas), however little did I realise that I may have been better off looking at the underside of the red Action banner for the next 90 minutes, rather than what I saw on field.
After a bright start, with the Ox impressing with his energetic runs, it really did feel like a goal was imminent. It was also apparent that the Bilic approach to play was to continue from their much curtailled/already finished “European campaign of 2015-15″, namely a fouling/tripping based strategy, as seen by a couple of early yellows.
It’s no wonder their glorious Europa Cup run saw three red cards for Wham in their 5 July games. Looking at the crude and vulgar gesticulations and antics of Bilic on the sidelines today they also have a manager who will be regularly sent to the stands this season.
Team wise the only surprise may have been Debuchy in place of Bellerin at right back and the presence of Alexis on the bench, for emergency use only presumably.
After early chances came and were missed frustration did begin to creep into the part of the North Bank lower I was in and although the usual suspects were being targetted, Özil and Olly, for me the key miss was Santi, who had one of those games where his influence was minor. When Santi’s twinkle toes are not playing a big part in our game, you know we are having a bad day.
And so it turned out, however before then two myths have to busted.
Firstly, excessive complaining about the failings of our team and NOT the sole preserve of the so called excessive entitlement younger generations as an octogenarian fan behind me was on the back of the team within 10 minutes of the start. Everyone was rubbish; they were too slow or too fast, they should have done “X” with the ball and not “Y” – at one point i was sure his false teeth were going to fly out, such was the venom of his barracking.
So when Wham scored after Cech made a ricket (aka total balls up) of collecting a cross the mood plunged and the home competitive debut of our sole summer signing (so far) was consigned to the “Day to forget” pile.
After a few minutes the home support gathered themselves and urged the team on again and the expectancy was that the second half would see an equaliser.
Little did we contemplate a defensive mix up leading to gifting possession to Wham soon after the restart would double the visitors lead.
And so onto the second myth to be busted: how good the Wham support is.
Aside from some applause at kick off the away support was barely heard till the second goal, when at last the latest batch of queue jumpers on Newham Coucil’s Housing list decided to rouse themselves from their afternoon slumbers.
While the home support is generally soporific, most of the away fans I have seen showed significantly better support and volume levels. The Eagles supporters, at the first fixture of last season, were far and away better supporters as they sang all the way through even though Crystal Palace lost the game – a far superior demonstration of away support
What followed was a final balf hour of amateur time wasting and frantic attacks by the Arsenal forwards which broke down, and led to much howling and clasping of heads by the dejected home support.
A long delay after a clash of heads involving Olly, plus 5 substitutions only 5 minutes of added time, when at least 7 seemed likely, seemed to sum up the Gunners luck.
Even the late introduction of Alexis couldn’t scare up a goal for the Arsenal, expecting him to be match sharp this early is beyond ridiculous
The final whistle was greeted with a mixture of boos and subdued applause for the team showing that two trophies in two seasons gets you some goodwill with the fans, but how long this lasts will be proved by the reaction to this result from the team.
By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)