Cech horror show on Arsenal debut leaves Gunners reeling
Arsenal's much-vaunted new signing runs the gauntlet on social media after he gifts West Ham victory in season opener
Arsenal 0 West Ham United 2. Petr Cech's first Premier League appearance for Arsenal turned into the stuff of nightmares as West Ham recorded their first win at the Emirates in eight years. The veteran keeper, who arrived in the summer in a £10.9m move from Chelsea, was heralded by Gooners as the gloveman to give Arsenal some much-needed reliability between the posts.
Instead, Cech gifted West Ham two goals as the Hammers inflicted a shock defeat on their hosts, sending social media into a maelstrom of mockery at his expense.
"Think Arsene Wenger might need to sign a keeper before the window shuts," chortled Match of the Day host Gary Lineker on Twitter, although his message disappeared soon afterwards. Meanwhile, notes Metro, scores of fans wondered if "Cech was sent by Chelsea to sabotage Arsenal", such was the ineptitude of his performance.
In truth it would be unfair to single out Cech for criticism. Arsenal, who last week beat Chelsea to win the Community Shield, were poor all over the park, while West Ham deserve credit for their work and wit in outplaying their hosts. No Hammer was more outstanding than 16-year-old Reece Oxford, the teenage midfielder playing his first Premier League match with a maturity and assurance that belied his tender years.
"It was a dream debut," admitted Oxford, who only learned he would be starting on Saturday evening. "It is an honour to be the youngest ever West Ham player."
There were different emotions for Cech, whose manager sidestepped questions about his performance in the post-match conference. "I haven't spoken to him yet," replied Arsene Wenger, when asked about Cech. "I can't see many individual convincing performances today so it's difficult to single someone out."
Wenger, whose team have won only two of their last six season openers in the Premier League, was blunt in his assessment of the Gunners' display. "It was not convincing, not agile, not quick," he said. "Our passing was too slow and in the end we were punished."
As speculation grows that Arsenal are edging closer to signing Karim Benzema from Real Madrid, the capture of the French striker might not be enough to placate the notoriously capricious supporters, some of whom openly called last season for the sacking of Wenger. The back four continues to look suspect while the lack of a defensive midfielder is also a concern for the Emirates faithful.
West Ham certainly had little trouble unlocking the Arsenal defence, first when Dimitri Payet's free-kick was misjudged by Cech allowing Cheikhou Kouyate to head the ball home two minutes before the break. If that goal stunned the home crowd into silence, Mauro Zarate's 20-yard strike on 57 minutes left Gooners shocked. The Arsenal defence committed the first error, coughing up possession to Zarate, but his low shot should still have been comfortably saved by Cech, who moved the wrong way and was beaten at his near post.
It meant West Ham were able to celebrate a win in their first match under new manager Slaven Bilic. "We are all very pleased," said the Croatian. "Sam Allardyce [his predecessor] left me a good team and left me some quality in the side. We are still short of a few players but we have a chance to do a good job in the Premier League."