Arsenal 3 (Van Persie pen 18, 41, Denilson 59) Newcastle 0
After the angry reaction to the Fulham defeat, Wenger must be delighted with the response. A comfortable dispatching of Twente was followed by an equally routine win over a side that have started the season well, and in Shay Given have a keeper with a history of foiling us.
Early on, we created plenty without taking a deserved lead – Gallas missing a sitter, Van Persie having a clear penalty shout turned down, and Toure finally getting one of his long rangers on target only for Given to deny him.
And just as we wondered whether it was going to be one of those days, Adebayor won a penalty that was a lot less clear cut than the earlier one, N’Zogbia handling his cross. The reason I say it was less clear cut is that I sometimes think the awarding of such a spot kick is harsh – N’Zogbia’s momentum pushed his arm out, there was no intentional or ‘unnatural’ movement, to quote how Keith Hackett describes the rule.
Still, it was awarded, and Van Persie gladly lashed it home. Before half time, he’d got his second, after some fine and surprising play from one Emmanuel Eboue, exchanging the ball with Adebayor before cleverly backheeling a perfectly weighted pass to the Dutchman, who lashed home with, equally surprisingly, his right foot. All in all, it was a bizarre, but beautifully worked, goal.
The third actually came after a period of pressure from Newcastle, after we had seemed to ease up a little. Butt hit the bar with a looping header, and their midfield were beginning to find their feet, but after Adebayor played a disguised ball to Denilson, the Brazilian fired home and killed the game.
But that wasn’t the end of the talking points. The first, and most worrying, came after Van Persie rattled the underside of the bar from a ridiculous angle. As he landed, he seemed to have his foot stepped on in much the same way as against United two years ago. Let’s hope the damage isn’t as bad this time.
The final one was Joey Barton. Quite what Keegan was thinking bringing him on for a few minutes before his hearing next week is anyone’s guess, but any thoughts that Barton might want to conduct himself more maturely vanished within seconds. He charged into a challenge with Nasri, and while it was a perfectly fair tackle, the smirking grin on his face afterwards belied the true nature of the man. Once an aggressive thug, always an aggressive thug, I guess.
Nasri was having none of it, and endeared himself to Arsenal fans (and probably many others) by quite deliberately tripping him towards the end. As in any situation where a player cynically trips another in full flow, Nasri picked up a deserved yellow, but Keegan went overboard after the game, claiming it should’ve been red. Come on Kevin, be serious. It was a trip, not assault, it is your player that specialises in that.
Perhaps Keegan is an eternal optimist, claiming that he still believes in Barton and he deserves a second chance. But the problem is that while everyone does deserve one reprieve, he’s far beyond that now. I can’t help but think that by weakly backing him, they’re setting themselves up for a fall later on. Even after a few minutes on the pitch it was clear Barton hadn’t grown up one bit.
With a day and a half of the transfer window left, attention turns once again to our central midfield hole, and I’d be very surprised if it weren’t filled by tomorrow night. But elsewhere, the signs are good. Four good wins and one poor performance isn’t exactly the disaster it looked last weekend.