Newcastle 0:0 Arsenal
This was a game of very little incident, except for two altercations, both involving Joey Barton. I suspect you’ve all seen the game, I probably don’t need to go over the 2nd and main incident again. Mid way through the 2nd half, probably seething with rage and seeking retaliation from an earlier stamp by Song, Barton decides that Gervinho is simulating when he goes down in the area. He grabs Gervinho angrily with both hands by the shirt and in the resulting melee receives a limp slap in the face, which causes him, this hard man who has done bird, to go down like Monica Lewinsky, and cry foul to the referee. Speechless. Not only that Gervinho is then sent off, but that a penalty decision is not given, given that it did look like a trip (however soft) and the case for it was a hell of a lot stronger than last year’s 2 risible penalty awards. And the other grating thing is that Gervinho was provoked into a reaction by Barton in the first place, which makes it in my book a ludicrous injustice. Barton should have walked as well.
Now, in the interests in balance. It has to be said that Song should have walked as well. He did stamp on Barton, presumably because of some earlier incident, which I did not see. Pardew said that this beahviour from Song was out of character. It probably was. Still, it was disappointing from a viewpoint of discipline. We lost momentum last year because of Diaby’s reaction to Barton, the same player. We can ill afford incidents like this, particularly in the current climate of negativity.
The Barton Gervinho incident of course overshadows the whole game. In reality, it was not a turning point, as both sides were defensively parsimonious, very parsimonious. On reflection, I was nervous at half time. We had dominated possession, but hadn’t really created any clear cut chances. In actual fact, I can’t recall any clear cut chances in the entire game. Gervinho was a threat in the first half, making 4 or 5 incisive runs, alas with little end product. Either down to a lack of synchronizity with VP or just poor finishing. Still, Gervinho’s directness was encouraging. I thought Rosicky was composed, and sprayed the ball around well. At the back we looked composed, we defended set pieces well, and dare I say it, Szczesny, Koscienly and Vermaelen looked commanding.
The 2nd half was more of the same, save the 2 incidents involving Song and Barton, and then Barton and Gervinho. We lacked any real punch to create space and openings for clear cut chances. Our defence I thought was outstanding. The only worrying moment was in the last 10 minutes where a Newcastle player went through on goal but could not make contact. Frimpong came on in the last 5 minutes, presumably to scare the opposition. Djourou was brought on in the last 2 to shore up the back line. There was a breakaway chance led by him after that, where the ball was squared to the wrong arsenal player and it resulted in nothing.
All in all, it was a relief not to have lost. The away crowd, normally very supportive, at one point were singing ‘Spend the f*cking money’. I shudder to think of the reaction if we had lost, but we looked quite good defensively. Unusually for us, we lacked sharpness up front, and failed to carve out decent openings. Walcott when he came on, was half a yard off the pace, which will be down to just coming back from injury. We have to hope now that the FA will review Gervinho’s suspension and be kind to us, reducing it from 3 games to 1 game. A return of Wilshere would also be welcome. Anyway, let’s enjoy the positives. It was a clean sheet and the portents look good with the Szczesny, Vermaelen and Koscienly triumvirate. To give credit to Newcastle, they were defensively well organised, competitive and disciplined. They have a bit of bite, and some physical players. Like us, they needed more cohesion and firepower up front.
Transfer news ? It looks pretty bleak at the moment. Cesc is more a less a done deal as you know. Nasri didn’t travel with the squad, put down to a mystery ‘illness’. There is the quite bonkers rumour going around of a Tevez Nasri swap. There are 2 interesting rumours, amongst all others, that stand out for me. Sochaux midfielder Marvin Martin and Marseille winger Andre Ayew. The latter player, Ayew, is an exciting Ghanian winger who plays for Marseille, and has a €13.7 million release clause. Martin is a midfielder with a very impressive assists record and is vying for a place in the french national team with Nasri. It could all be a load of guff, but I think patience is called for in the final 2 weeks of the transfer window. We have at least £60 million to spend, so we have the financial power to make any deals happen. We just have to hope that AW makes the right calls and can find adequate replacements for Nasri (if he does go) and Cesc.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscienly, Gibbs, Rosicky (Frimpong 85), Ramsey (Djourou 92), Song, Arshavin (Walcott 61), VP, Gervinho
Subs: Fabianski, Djourou, Jenkinson, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Frimpong, Chamakh
Newcastle: Krul, Colloccini, Simpson, R Taylor, S Taylor, Cabaye (Lovenkrands 81), Gutierrez, Tiote, Ba (Obertan 46), Sh Ameobi (Best 73)
Subs: Forster, Willimson, Gosling, Lovenkrands, Best, Obertan, Sa Ameobi