London - Petr Cech suffered a nightmare Premier League debut for
Arsenal as the goalkeeper's costly blunder condemned the Gunners to a shock 2-0
defeat against West Ham on Sunday.
Cech's £10m arrival from champions
Chelsea was hailed in some quarters as the move that would tip the balance of
power in the title race firmly in Arsenal's favour.
But the 33-year-old Czech was badly at fault when Senegal
midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate headed West Ham into the lead late in the first
half at the Emirates stadium.
Cech wasn't helped by an alarmingly careless display from
his new team-mates, who crumbled again when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's mistake
allowed Argentine forward Mauro Zarate to seal the most stunning result of the
Premier League's opening weekend.
All the optimism surrounding Arsenal in the aftermath of
last season's FA Cup final rout of Aston Villa and last weekend's Community
Shield victory over Chelsea was washed away in a catastrophic start to Arsene
Wenger's 20th season in charge.
The Gunners boss must have been horrified with the way his
team, tipped to finally end the club's 12-year wait to win the title, were
bullied by West Ham, who ended a run of 10 successive defeats against Arsenal
with their first win over their London rivals since April 2007.
It was a dream start for new West Ham manager Slaven Bilic,
who replaced Sam Allardyce in the close-season, and the perfect response to
criticism of his decision to field a weakened team in their Europa League
defeat against Astra Giurgiu on Thursday.
While Bilic celebrated with his club's supporters at
full-time, Wenger wore a frown as he trudged down the tunnel, possibly to
reconsider his decision to distance himself from a bid for Real Madrid striker
With French forward Olivier Giroud failing to repay Wenger's
faith after being handed a start ahead of Theo Walcott, Arsenal were mostly
impotent in front of goal.
Oxlade-Chamberlain popped up in space to lash a dipping
volley just wide in the early stages.
The Arsenal winger then made an incisive burst down the
right flank that took him past three defenders before a lofted cross picked out
Santi Cazorla, who guided his volley onto the roof of the net.
Aaron Ramsey came close to breaking the deadlock when the
Arsenal midfielder's drive hit Aaron Cresswell and deflected onto the crossbar.
But Wenger's men weren't quite as dominant as the possession
statistics suggested and West Ham debutant Dimitri Payet cleverly worked space
for a long-range effort that deflected just over.
That was a warning to Arsenal's notoriously fragile defence
that they couldn't afford to relax, but they were breached two minutes before
half-time in the careless manner that suggested Cech's arrival is yet to spread
the increased assurance he was expected to provide.
When Payet whipped a dangerous in-swinging free-kick into
the penalty area, Cech made the wrong choice, rushing off his line to attempt a
leaping punch that got nowhere near the ball and Kouyate, left free by Laurent
Koscielny's sloppy marking, gleefully punished the mistake by heading into the
Desperately needing an immediate response after the
interval, Arsenal tried to raise their tempo and Giroud sent a shot crashing
into the side-netting.
But Giroud wasted another chance, this time failing to find
the power to beat Hammers goalkeeper Adrian, and in the 57th minute more
lackadaisical defending allowed West Ham to double their lead.
This time Oxlade-Chamberlain was the guilty party,
surrendering possession to Zarate, who turned under no pressure and hit a low
strike that wasn't especially powerful but still beat Cech.
Wenger sent on Walcott and Alexis Sanchez and Arsenal laid siege
to Adrian's goal late on.
But West Ham, superbly marshalled by 16-year-old midfielder
Reece Oxford, held firm thanks to Adrian, who turned away efforts from Cazorla
and Mesut Ozil to leave the hosts stunned.