LONDON: Arsene Wenger blamed a bad case of opening day nerves for Arsenal’s embarrassing 2-0 loss against West Ham on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
Wenger’s side were left shell-shocked as a mistake from former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech allowed Cheikhou Kouyate to put West Ham ahead before Mauro Zarate struck to condemn the Gunners to defeat in their first game of the Premier League season.
Cech’s shaky debut was hardly reassuring for Wenger, who hoped the Czech’s £10 million ($15 million) signing from Chelsea would prove a crucial addition as Arsenal chase their first title since 2004.
But rather than blame the loss on Cech’s blunder, the Gunners boss attributed the meltdown at the Emirates Stadium to a collective lack of composure.
“The players were maybe too nervous and put too much pressure on themselves,” Wenger said. “We were not convincing offensively or defensively.
“I knew it could be a tricky game. We know fitness wise, West Ham were ahead of us, they had already played competitive games. You never have the same intensity as them.
“But if you can’t win the game, make sure you don’t lose it.
“We have been hurt mentally and it is a good opportunity to respond. We will respond to that accident.”
Asked for his view on Cech’s display, Wenger opted against publicly criticizing his new signing.
“It is not only him, we have enough experience at the back. The mistake was a collective one,” Wenger said.
“I can’t see many convincing performances today. I haven’t spoken to him yet.
“The concentration was maybe not there and the organization wasn’t there. We gave them too much space to run into.”
While Wenger bemoaned Arsenal’s flaws, new West Ham manager Slaven Bilic admitted he was surprised how well his side played in a dream start to his reign.
“I know we have a good team but I wasn’t sure how we were going to show it,” the Croatian said.
“It’s great start for us against a team that are title contenders.
“This is very special. I’m very proud of the second half performance.”
Key to West Ham’s first win over Arsenal in eight years was the remarkably mature display of 16-year-old Reece Oxford, who shone in a midfield holding role just weeks after becoming the club’s youngest ever player.
“People were asking ‘are you sure he is 16?’ It was going to be a risk but he has got something,” Bilic said.
“I am very proud of him. Only on paper he is 16, he is a part of this new generation.”