Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger refused to point the finger at Petr Cech despite the goalkeeper enduring a debut to forget as his side suffered a shock home defeat to West Ham yesterday.
Cech was at fault for Cheikhou Kouyate’s headed opener and then out of position when Mauro Zarate clinched victory as the Gunners lost their opening Premier League fixture for only the second time in 15 years.
It was a deflating start for fancied title contenders Arsenal, but Wenger was not prepared to criticise Cech, despite the £10m summer signing’s unconvincing performance.
“The way we conceded the goal just before half-time, with the experience we have in our team, is difficult to understand, but it was a collective lapse, not only him,” said Wenger.
“We have enough experience at the back. If you look at our back-line I think the youngest one is 30. I couldn’t see too many convincing individual performances so it is difficult to single one out. When you are a professional footballer, you have to face your responsibilities. We have to look at ourselves. We were not good enough, we were not convincing and that’s basically it.”
In a disjointed first-half Arsenal showing defined by a series of misplaced passes, Santi Cazorla failed to hit the target with a delicate back-post volley, while Aaron Ramsey’s deflected effort flicked the top of the crossbar.
West Ham stunned their London rivals moments before half-time when Kouyate met former Marseille playmaker Dimitri Payet’s flighted free-kick to guide a header past a committed, and ultimately stranded, Cech.
The Hammers, enterprising as well as resilient, doubled their lead 12 minutes after the re-start when forgotten man Zarate regained possession following limp Arsenal defending and lashed a low 20-yard shot past a wrong-footed Cech.
The toiling hosts became increasingly desperate but were unable to breach a robust West Ham back-line, as the visitors ended a run of 10 straight defeats against the Gunners.
Arsenal, blunt in attack yesterday, continue to be linked with a big-money move for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, although Wenger remained coy on transfer business. He added: “I can only repeat what I have already said. If an exceptional solution turns up, we do it. But as well, after defeat like that, it is important not to always think the solution is from outside.”