Aston Villa expose Wenger’s failure to arm Gunners
Opening-day embarrassment could force Arsenal boss to plunge into transfer market, while Reds' Sturridge grabs season's first goal
Christian Benteke scored twice as Arsenal's Premier League ambitions suffered an opening-day setback with a 3-1 loss at home to Aston Villa yesterday.
The result threw into sharp focus the failure of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to strengthen his side in pre-season.
Olivier Giroud put the home side ahead in the sixth minute but Arsenal's promising start at the Emirates Stadium was quickly forgotten as Villa's Benteke scored twice before Antonio Luna wrapped up the win for the visitors.
A dismal afternoon for Arsenal was made worse by the 66th-minute dismissal of Laurent Koscielny and Wenger was left in no doubt about the frustrations of Gunners fans, who responded with a chant urging the French manager to spend money on bringing new players to the north London club.
Wenger has so far failed to attract any big-name signings after failing to land primary targets Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney.
And the team sheet provided an eloquent reminder of the lack of new faces with the Gunners' starting XI mirroring exactly the team that finished last season at Newcastle.
Wenger insisted ahead of this game he remained hopeful of strengthening his squad before adding the familiar caveat that he would only buy if the right player became available at the right price. After this clash, Wenger may consider it time to re-evaluate his stance.
In the early match, Liverpool beat Stoke City 1-0, with Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insisting the situation surrounding unsettled striker Luis Suarez had been resolved and the club were ready to move on.
The subject of two failed bids from Arsenal, Suarez was forced to train on his own by Rodgers after declaring that he wanted to leave, but the 26-year-old Uruguayan returned to training with his teammates on Friday.
"I am satisfied with how everything has been resolved and we as a club are looking to the future," Rodgers told BT Sport. "I won't be saying anything on Luis Suarez and that is only purely out of respect for the [other] players."
Suarez is suspended for the first six matches of the new season after biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic during a league game at Anfield in April.
He briefly appeared beside the pitch prior to the game against Stoke, carrying his daughter, Delfina, and received a short burst of applause from the fans already inside the stadium.
"He is a part of our team and club and the supporters are a class act here," said Rodgers.
Liverpool were ultimately indebted to new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet for saving an 89th-minute penalty from Jon Walters, after Daniel Sturridge had given the hosts a 37th-minute lead with a crisp shot from 20 yards.
Elsewhere, Roberto Martinez began his career as Everton manager by picking up a point from an entertaining 2-2 draw at Norwich City.
Quick-fire goals from Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman put the visitors in front after Steven Whittaker had given Norwich the lead, only for new signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel to equalise for the home side with a fine header in the 71st minute.
Rickie Lambert, who scored the winning goal against Scotland on his England debut in mid-week, completed a memorable few days by snatching a 1-0 win for Southampton at West Bromwich Albion with a last-minute penalty.
Cardiff City made a disappointing return to the top flight as goals from Joe Cole and Kevin Nolan saw them beaten 2-0 at West Ham, while a 52nd-minute header by Pajtim Kasami gave Fulham a 1-0 win at Sunderland.