With virtually no new arrivals a few injuries the Arsenal team more or less picked itself. Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Bacary Sagna all managed to recover from midweek knocks to take their place in the team, but Santi Cazorla was on the bench after playing late on Wednesday night in Ecuador for his country. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got the nod in the wide left role with Lukas Podolski left on the bench.
Also on the bench were Emmanuel Frimpong, Serge Gnabry and Yaya Sanogo, but there were only there to make up the numbers and weren't going to be used unless Arsenal had a substantial advantage. With a Champions League qualifier to come in Turkey on Wednesday night it was crucial that Arsenal got their season off to a good start against Villa. It was also crucial that there were no more injuries to the already depleted squad.
The game got off to a good start for Arsenal and after dominating the early play they took the lead after only six minutes. Arsenal broke up a Villa attack and broke quickly themselves with Tomas Rosicky playing a great ball down the left for Chamberlain. He cut in towards the goal and passed to Olivier Giroud who finished from only six yards out. Arsenal had the early lead they wanted and pushed forward to try to build on it.
When Arsenal didn't add to their lead Villa gradually came back into the game and got the break they wanted in the 22nd minute. Gabriel Agbonlahor came infield from the left and ran straight through the centre of the Arsenal midfield where Mikael Arteta would have been if he wasn't injured. Laurent Koscielny came out to challenge him but Agbonlahor was too quick and skipped past him leaving himself with only Wojciech Szczesny to beat. He pushed the ball left of the goal before Szczesny could get it and the keepers follow through brought him down.
The referee pointed to the spot and gave Szczesny a yellow card for his efforts too. Christian Benteke stepped up to take the penalty but his weak effort was well saved by the keeper. Unfortunately the rebound hopped up for Benteke to head into the net before Szczesny could stop it and before the Arsenal defenders could react.
Things went from bad to worse for Arsenal only a few minutes later when Kieran Gibbs had to go off with a bad cut to his face after an accidental clash with Andreas Weimann. It meant Carl Jenkinson came on at right back with Sagna switching to left back and Arsenal had their last four fit defenders on the pitch. The closest either team came to scoring before the break was when Szczesny went walkabout, but Villa failed to take advantage.
Shortly before the break Chamberlain picked up a knock after both he and Antonio Luna slid in and missed the ball with the referee inexplicably booking Luna. It was a costly knock for Arsenal with Chamberlain in failing to appear after the break and Cazorla taking his place. Arsenal were down to the bare bones now and couldn't afford any more injuries to their players.
The second half started with both teams looking dangerous and Arsenal could have regained the lead through both Giroud and Rosicky before Fabian Delph hit the post for Villa. It was a lucky escape for Arsenal with the ball hitting one post and going almost along the line before going just past the other post. It was anyone's game at that stage and the next goal looked like it would be decisive.
There were plenty of holes appearing in the Arsenal rearguard though with no Arteta and Villa's pace on the break. When Cazorla was dispossessed in midfield after 62 minutes Agbonlahor raced through again and tried to go past Koscielny. The Arsenal defender put in a great tackle to knock the ball out for a corner, but the referee saw it differently and awarded a penalty kick as well as giving Koscielny a yellow card.
Benteke stepped up again and made no mistake this time to put Villa in the lead. Arsenal were going to have to push forward and Villa are a very dangerous team on the break. There was still half an hour left though and it was surely enough time for Arsenal to get back into the game.
Not long afterwards things got an awful lot worse for Arsenal when Koscielny picked up his second yellow card and with it his marching orders. He caught Weimann slightly as Villa broke after Arsenal had again given possession away too easily and when the advantage didn't work out the referee called for the free and sent Koscielny off. His first card was a completely wrong decision and even the second was a very harsh decision when taken on it's own.
It was an uphill battle for Arsenal now and with no defenders available to come on Ramsey had to move into a central defensive role. Arsenal tried all they could to get back into the game and Rosicky should have equalised when clean through after a great move. As the clock ticked on Arsenal got one more great chance when Cazorla's shot bounced into the ground, but Brad Guzan somehow managed to get a hand to it and deflect it against the bar.
Arsenal got more desperate as the time ran out and Villa took their chance to finish the game off with five minutes left. They broke quickly from an Arsenal corner and with everybody out of position Luna found himself through with only Szczesny to beat and finished in style. The game was effectively over at that stage and Arsenal offered little in the remaining minutes.
There was still time for another Arsenal player to pick up an injury though when Sagna went over on his neck very badly and looked to be in a lot of pain. He had to go off and was replaced by Podolski for the last couple of added minutes. When the game ended there were boos all around the stadium and they weren't just for the referee.
Arsenal can complain about the refereeing decision which gave the crucial second goal to Villa and rightly so, but they can hardly complain about Villa's tactics. They got stuck in but Arsenal got almost as many yellow cards and Arsenal have come to expect teams playing just like Villa more often than not. Their inability to cope with Villa's tactics and continue to play their game wasn't acceptable and they spent too much energy complaining to the referee.
Jack Wilshere got so wound up at one stage that I thought he might see red and Rosicky put in his fair share of mistimed tackles. The referee will hardly have a worse game this season, but he can't be blamed for Arsenal's lack of options when things went against them or their lack of leadership on the pitch.
Arsenal now travel to Fenerbache on Wednesday night and it looks like Chamberlain will certainly miss out. If Gibbs and Sagna don't recover their team will be in such a state that they could have some very real problems. There's still no Arteta for that game and there is nobody else with te discipline he has to play the defensive midfield role.
The trip to Fulham next Saturday will not be easy either with Koscielny suspended and it means Sagna will have to play at centre back if he has recovered from today. The trip to Turkey will be an energy sapping one and the prospect of picking up any injuries over there is a scary one. The squad is so small at the moment that it's almost farcical.
I don't know how the club have come so far into the transfer window with doing the business that needs to be done. That business has to be sorted out immediately and players have to brought in to play against Fulham next weekend. The players the club currently have cannot be added to for the Fenerbache games, but that is no excuse for inactivity.
The fans were singing "Spend some f***ing money" at the end and they're absolutely right. There wasn't a single fan who didn't know Arsenal needed to add to their squad in a big way, but three months after last season ended that have failed to do so. Excuses can be given for various targets being missed but the buck has to stop somewhere and the club have really messed up.
The fans who have paid their hard earned money deserve to be given the very best the club can offer and they're not getting it at the moment. What's the point in have a huge transfer fund and waiting so log to spend it with the team needing change so badly. Other clubs have managed to do business and no excuse Arsenal can offer is good enough in my opinion.
The boost of additions to the squad cannot be overestimated and it can only make other players work harder to keep their places. What's the point in waiting until deadline day to save a couple of million pounds if Champions League football is lost this season or next as a result. It's going to be a tough two weeks for Arsenal fans and we can only hope the outcome won't be as bad as we fear at the moment.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.