Aug 132011

Football is back, but it is not football that many will be talking about after an opening game that left a sour taste in the mouths of many that witnessed it. In truth, that is partly because, from a purely football point of view, there wasn’t a lot to talk about – despite a huge amount of possession, particularly in the first half, we created little, and Tim Krul was rarely and never seriously tested. Plenty of excellent positions were found, but all too often an extra touch was taken or the final ball was wayward, and those chances came and went. At the other end, Newcastle were wholly unambitious.

It had the feel of a pre-season game, perhaps because both sides came in undercooked and unsure of their squads. Newcastle have sold, we are missing players that we are about to sell, and both clubs have moves still to make before the end of August. It showed on the pitch – neither bench was particularly strong (you could argue ours had talent, but not experience), and both sets of players looked rustier than the usual opening day fare.

That said, there were positives, particularly at the back, where Koscielny impressed alongside Vermaelen, Gibbs surged forward well, and Szczesny dominated his area superbly, especially from set pieces. That defensive solidity was important – had we crumbled under pressure at the end and conceded a soft goal, the pitchforks would be out. As it is, it isn’t a spectacular result, but it isn’t a bad one either – given the nature of our squad situation, a point and a clean sheet away from home is nothing to lambast, although I’m sure many will.

Of course, the football will not make the headlines – instead, two flashpoints will, out of which neither club, or anyone involved, came out particularly well. The first incident involved Song and Barton – Song, already on a yellow, was riled by a Barton challenge and appeared to quite deliberately bring his studs down on the back of his leg, a moment of sheer stupidity fortunately missed by Peter Walton. In the moment, I defended Song on Twitter as it appeared to be an accident on first viewing, but having seen the replays it is clear that he does look down at Barton before choosing where to place his foot.

It was the kind of stupidity we thought we had eradicated from the club once Eboue had been ousted, and I have little doubt that an FA charge will follow. The only thing that might save him is if the FA turn a blind eye to it, because of the actions of his victim later in the game.

With a quarter of an hour to go, Gervinho, who was having an excellent debut, turned in the box and was clipped by Tiote. There was contact, but my first reaction was that it was a dive. He certainly went down easily – one of those moments where you claim the spot kick if your player goes down, but feel hard done by if it is given against you. What followed was far worse – Barton decided on the vigilante approach and hauled our new signing up by his neck and throat, an action that would eventually earn him a yellow card. Any sympathy from the neutrals for a man seemingly unhappy about a fellow professional going down easily were quickly eradicated when Gervinho’s light bitch slap reaction saw Barton tumble back to earth clutching (the wrong side of) his face in apparent agony.

Repeatedly, Barton then claimed to be the victim of a powerful punch, which is somewhat ironic since he should know exactly what one of those is, having dished plenty out both on and away from the football field. If he thought that a punch, I would certainly hesitate to believe what sort of ‘tough unbringing’ he really had. Equally risible was the reaction of Steven Taylor, who hounded anyone who would listen with claims that, in fact, it was a swinging elbow that saw Barton so mortally wounded. You would have thought Walton would have smelt a rat at such wildly different accounts, but sadly not.

Incidentally, all credit to ESPN’s Rebecca Lowe, who pressed that very point home in an interview with Taylor after the game, in which the player claimed not to have seen the incident at all. Lowe refused to move on, pointing out that that was a strange claim to make by a man who had insinuated quite the opposite in the immediate aftermath. In doing so, she exposed Taylor quite brilliantly. Well played.

But, and this is a big but, for all the cretinous and blood boiling behaviour of Barton, you cannot defend what Gervinho did – he raised his hands, slapped his opponent, and in doing so gave Barton exactly what he wanted. Because for those who question why Barton does these things, there is your answer – he got a yellow card, and he incited his opponent into getting sent off. In short, he won. He is not embarrassed by his actions, and I question the logic of the masses who send him abuse on Twitter – can you not see that he likes to know he gets to people? You are playing into his hands, people.

No-one came out of the situation well. Barton and Taylor looked like manipulative weasels, Song and Gervinho naive, foolish and a touch spiteful, and the officials weak. Even the managers made me cringe – Wenger by claiming he would appeal the sending off, and Pardew for seeing no wrong in what his player had done.

My take on what should have happened? Song, Barton and Gervinho should all have seen red, and all for violent conduct – Song for the stamp, Gervinho for the slap, and Barton for lifting him off the ground by his neck. But as I’ve already said, Barton won the day, because he is almost certainly the only one of the trio who will not be missing next weekend’s games through suspension. The more this tactic works, the more he will persist with it – he did for Diaby six months ago, and he has done it again.

I will say this though – when Robbie Savage is calling you out after the game, and the nation is nodding in agreement, you have officially reached a new low.

So now Wenger has to plan for a testing fortnight without more players – Song and Gervinho are both likely to be missing for games against Liverpool and United, and with the squad already thinner than we would like, some careful rotation will have to occur for the Champions League tie. It is an unenviable situation, but one that is entirely our own doing thanks to the end of season collapse that helped create the ‘spend some fucking money‘ chant that echoed around the away end in the final moments of the game. For the record, while I think the away fans are superb and have the right to sing whatever they want, the timing was off – we were defending solidly, and were trying to see out a final push from a side with an extra man. Not helpful in that moment, no matter how resonant the sentiment.

Overall, I am a little disappointed by the result without seeing it as a disaster, but I’m worried about the next couple of weeks. For so many reasons, the next fortnight is enormously important.

Despite the turgid game, it is good to have football back. Next up, Udinese.

  32 Responses to “Newcastle 0 Arsenal 0 – a game of fools”

  1. mate just a note, the spend some money chant was at regular periods throughout the game,not just at the end

    • Heard it twice most audibly – once about halfway through the second half, once at the end. Could understand the former more than the latter.

  2. Gervinho wasnt excellent.Yes he ran at them but his final ball was awful and his decision making was poor
    The defence did do ok.But against a toothless Newcastle attack
    Song is an idiot and will rightly get a 3 match ban

    The match was perfectly summed up by Djourou’s awful pass in the last minute when Walcott would have been clean through.

    • I thought Gervinho showed a great deal of promise – yes, his final ball was poor, but that will come. I don’t have any worries there.

      Djourou’s pass was dreadful there. I actually thought he should have played RVP in, but having ignored him the Walcott ball should have been simple.

    • I would agree that Gervinho wasn’t great. He was essentially a dead end for any ball that came in his direction. Maybe first game jitters?

      I wouldn’t go as far as calling Song an idiot. There isn’t a Gooner out there that doesn’t want to plant a foot into Barton. I might not be as understanding if he actually does get banned.

      Djourou showed with that pass why Wenger won’t play him as a DM. His decision-making in midfield is awful.

      • It was a brainless act from Song, and he was remarkably lucky not to get sent off in that moment. The reason I’d call him an idiot is that we KNOW what Barton is and what he does – he showed us that six months ago and we should have learned.

  3. We still need Cahill and a playmaker. Our back four were extremely solid from open play and from set pieces, but we are an injury away from mediocrity. Cahill would be a good partner for Koscielny which could push TV to left back. Or we could just rotate Cahill, Kos, and Vermaelen. Cahill also can play as defensive midfielder (should Song get sent off). Cahill would be a prefect signing just to give our defense that final push. Now a playmaker is more urgently required. We need service, and we lacked it today. No killer passes, no chips over the defense. We need an attacking midfielder and this is where we HAVE to splurge. We are two signings away from being champions

    • Exactly the two signings I expect us to make – one central defender (not sure who it will be) and one creative central midfielder – I agree that we need both for the sake of the squad.

  4. gunners look pathetic

  5. What a load of shit – Wenger out!

  6. a truly even handed analysis. well done mate. i honestly cant see wenger buying in a cb more likely to promote miquel which may not be the worst thing. (he already plays the arsenal way, knows his team mates and will only improve with experience) i dont personally believe we do need to buy a “playmaker” both jack and aaron can play that position, jack is better at the minute but dont forget the massive improvements aaron had made before his injury and he hasnt had chance to play that much first team football since, one of those chances included scoring the only and winning goal against man ure, besides if we were to bring someone in now they would probably take time to gel and get used to the premiership.we are not a million miles away but i do think the formation is really letting us down 442 would be better with rvp and theo upfront then robin could help share some playmaking responsibility because i cant think of anyone in world football with a better touch

  7. I have been saying for many a moon the guys in black must be accountable.The FA should punish both the ref and Barton.The latter was seen grabbing a gunner by the neck.In the corresponding fixture last season,Diaby was sent off for having a go at Barton.
    In the Liverpool game Suarez was brought down by the last defender.If I aint wrong the latter should be off. Instead he was given a yellow.The penalty was justifiably awarded.
    So we have the situation as in seasons gone of refs deciding the outcome of matches.Surely with the higher income the punishment for thes e guys in black should be appropriate.
    That is why don’t be surprised the guys in black unwittingly help the red faced cunt ot win the title again.

  8. stop whining season has just started and once again yuo are crying hard done by get a grip you were crap today

  9. Song is a dirty effort,bet your manager did not see it as always he wants to look at his own team befgore moaning about how dirty other teams are,song should of defo seen red

    • Yes he should have done. Of course, only a fool could argue that he’s a dirtier player than Barton.

  10. What a pathetic game.We looked toothless in attack as did newcastle in theirs.yet ive read quite a few bloggers praising our defensive work.what work?we were hardly threatened.And in attack we looked pathetic.whats up with ramsey?he looks more like mark randall real desire and lousy passing.AA and rosicky were average too against an average defence.They had no proper LB and yet we failed to capitalise on this.Was there any tactics by AW at all?And then there is the song and gervinho problems.Why did song stamp on barton?pathetic mindset.gervinho should have seen waht happened to diaby last season?really this team has to guts and there will be no glory.AW should shut his mouth about mental strength and buy some quality.real quality…not more teenagers

    • No desire from Ramsey? Cut the guy a break. He has been impressive since coming back from a career threatening injury, and is still young.

  11. To Summerise:

    This was probably our strongest side knowing that 2 of our 3 world class players are probably sold, and we looked ordinary (continuing on from the end of last season and the pre season) and never looked like beating or scoring againsta very poor Newcastle side who are destined for a relegation battle.

    The players looked souless, they went through the motions and on this showing this will be a long very disappointing season.

    Lets get this straight…..our defence was virtually untested against a side that never extended them at all, even their dead pieces were pathetic….so there is no way you can make any judgement on how good the likes of Gibbs Vermaelen Koscielny & Sagna plus Szcesny are. However we all know that Koscielny is at best only an average defender and was found out a number of times last season, Gibbs is suspect when put under pressure, Vermaelen is good but is not world class, and our Szces has promise. Personally I believe they will crumble and be shown to be not up to the class required to stay in the top 4 of the EPL. but we shall see

    Gervinho looked ok, but against a poor side if he was any good I would have expected more, and the red card was correct he was stupid to slap Barton, as if he hadn’t the thug might well have been red carded instead!

    Song was a disgrace and should have gone…. I don’t like him as a player, I don’t rate him as anything other than average and he is one of the many resons why this side is so poor and he has a nasty side to him….he should have been sent off and hopefully the FA will dish out some appropriate punishment, he deserves it

    The rest were all poor to average, and there really is nothing more to say.

    There are major problems with our side that unfortunately Wenger has not addressed and if we lose out to Udinese attracting the top class players that we desperately need will be made extremely dificult. I have been disenchanted with Wengers all round failure to make the changes that even the most rose coloured glasses supporter must have seen, and I also think that to continue to spend tens of millions on promising teenagers when he pronounces that he refuses to pay the going rate for top class players is insulting to us all.

    More hurt is to follow for us unless the decision to replace him is taken immediately and we have the rest of the season under a new progressive manager rather than continue to stagnate and fall backwards unders Wenger!

    • Agreed, we look decidedly average. Not looking forward to Udinese at all.

    • One major problem with your analysis, and it is the ‘strongest side available’ line. Yes, this is nearly our strongest side CURRENTLY available, but that is because two of our best players, who should be replaced, are unavailable.

      At the moment, we are missing both them, and their replacements (since they haven’t arrived yet). To say that isn’t going to change is a bit slanted.

  12. Gervinho wasn’t great be he was definitely lively. Gervinho, welcome to the EPL! Thought Kos had a really good game. Not sure why our fullbacks crossing the ball in to the box. Its always a poor ball and never reaches an Arsenal target. Why bother. Can’t think of anything else to do with it? Clichy had the same problem.
    Oh, lets not forget that we only had ONE shot on target! And did you see our bench? It was pretty thin.

  13. there was not going to be any contact but gervinho dragged his foot and made the contact on purpose, thats worst than a no contact dive. fucking biased author.

    • Sorry, can’t find the bit in the article where Pete says it was a definite penalty. Which is odd, as it must be there to make your comment relevant…

  14. Wenger out – and out NOW !
    “In Arsene we rust.”

    • And bring in Guardiola! What, he’s not available? Oh. How about… Um… Wait… No… Gary Neville? He’s available ;)

  15. Pardew’s played Barton once again. A repeat performance of last season’s game – his solution to win games is stuck in the 80’s steal the advantage by taking our the oppositions best player.

    Last season take out Diaby,

    This season provoke Gervinho!

    Let him try that against Fergie’s men – he would be exposed!

    I must also be balanced: Alex Song must take out the dirty element of his game, lighting little fires in the course of a game, do not help us in the long run. Trampling on Barton will not win us point, but put you in the gutter with the likes of the Barton’s of this world.

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