Arsenal 1 Aston Villa 3
To quote Rudyard Kipling, "if you can keep your head when all about you are losing their and blaming it on you […] you'll be a man". The reaction to yesterday's Arsenal match has been so over-the-top you'd think we'd lost our first ten games of the season, not one match. Fortunately, we have a manager who doesn't view one match as season-defining.
If you predicted us picking up three injuries in one match and the ref having an absolutely appalling game then perhaps this was a case of the chickens coming home to roost and the summer having been mis-managed to the nth degree.
Otherwise, you can look back on a football match in which we utterly dominated for the first quarter, gave away a soft penalty and two enforced substitutions left us relatively few options to change it from the bench when the game slipped away from us in the second half. In addition, a match in which the referee not only gave Koscielny a second booking for what was frankly a complete dive from Andreas Weimann, but also consistently let Villa's persistent fouling go, despite it completely disrupting our rhythm. It wasn't just a case of Anthony Taylor getting the big decisions wrong; it was also a case of him getting the small decisions wrong over and over again. He had no idea what was a foul, let alone what was a yellow card. To my eyes, he completely lost control of the game and we're unlikely to see a worse refereeing performance at the Emirates this season.
And that's the crucial point. You can talk about signings as much as you want, but Arsenal were 2/5 with the bookies to win the match yesterday (implying a 70% chance of victory) and most people expected Arsenal to win.
That's the problem with results-based thinking. The squad needs strengthening. But it needed strengthening irrespective of the result yesterday, and there's no doubt that the team that was put out there was good enough to win the game.
As to why the squad hasn't been strengthened until now, there seems to be a large proportion of the fan-base who genuinely believe that Wenger doesn't want to spend any money so he can wallpaper the walls of the training ground with fifty-pound notes, completely ignoring what has gone on this summer.
I don't view our transfer window as a success, but I don't view it as the unequivocal failure most people seem to. There's a hell of a lot of people who'd be happier if Yaya Sanogo had cost 10 million pounds so they can say we've spent some money.
But if you look at the players we've actually bid for - Suarez, Rooney, Bender, Fabregas - a clear pattern emerges. What the club have tried to do this summer is sign players who could make us challenge for the League once again. Amidst all the talk of how Arsenal regularly come either 3rd or 4th, what's overlooked is that in both 2008 and 2010, we had strong challenges for the title, something we haven't been near for the previous two years.
Of course we could have gone out and bought players of the calibre Spurs have bought this summer - Capoue, Soldado etc - and consolidated the squad to a position where it could definitely achieve fourth place, but the impression I had from almost everybody who I spoke to was that they were tired of not winning things every season and wanted to strengthen to the point we could challenge for the title and maybe even the Champions League.
If another week or so passes and we still haven't signed anybody except Sanogo, I expect the the proverbial net to widen, as the need to sign players who would keep us above Spurs, rather than challenge Chelsea and City increases. But I have enormous sympathy with the club: when Fabregas left Arsenal it was on the 14th of August; when Nasri left Arsenal it was on the 24th of August; when van Persie signed for United, it was on the 15th of August; when Song signed for Barcelona it was on the 20th of August. What all of these deals have in common is that they went through towards the end of the transfer window. When you're signing one of the best players from a club, and the player is going to be in the Champions League anyway, it takes a while for these deals to go through. People talk about parsimony as if it's a good idea to spend more if you can spend less. We can't force deals through with huge money as Man City do, because we don't have that much money.
For sure, Arsenal can afford to spend some money this summer - but it's not worth buying assets who will rapidly lose value while being on high wages, meaning we''ll struggle to make top signings in 2014 and 2015. There's an important middle ground to be struck, which I'm confident the club have tried to find.
So, yes, we could sign players like Ashley Williams and Michu and guarantee 4th place once again, but I applaud the club's strategy of aiming higher than that. People need to be a little more detached from individual results and look at the bigger picture.
Keep the faith.